Politicians, who are batting zero in attempts to curb runaway inflation, may soon resort to some major surgery to whack benefits from the multibillion-dollar federal-military pension system.
Annuities of ex-federal and military personnel are linked to inflation, as measured by the cost of living. Retirees now get raises every March and September to help catch up with inflation. This September they are due at least 5.6 percent. In the District, Maryland and Virginia alone that will translate into a minimum monthly increase in pension outlays of $10 million.
Government retirees worldwide will get the same raise. The September increase will be bigger, in percentage, than the raise President Carter has set for active duty personnel.
Congress currently is considering plans to eliminate the raises retirees get every six months (March and September) based on the cost of living. Instead, the Senate and House are talking about giving federal retirees a single inflation catch-up each July, when social security payments are adjusted.
Unfortunately for the retirees, Congress is taking the view that federal-military pensions contribute to inflation. In fact - although the twice yearly raises are a good deal - they follow the cost of living and do not catch up to it long enough to contribute to it.
Federal, postal and retiree groups will fight the cost-of-living cutback. But they face an uphill fight with a government that is powerless to cut inflation, except when it comes to the pensions of people no longer working for it.