Government employes want a lot of questions answered before they agree to crawl under the social security blanket that is required cover for most other American workers.
If the 2.8 million feds (and families) don't get a lot of reassurance, the group that is considered usually docile and politically impotent could make some waves that would be felt from New York to Honolulu.
There is no such thing as a bureaucratic bloc vote -- yet. Federal workers are too diverse a group, too well educated and goegraphically scattered to be one-issue voters -- so far.
But the feds are scared. The nation's tax collectors, FBI agents, air traffic controllers, meat inspectors, TV monitors, regulation enforcers and VA hospital staffers are afraid social security could gut their generally superior retirement system. And many are angry at the proposed changes. They talk about breach of contract (we-signed-on-for-this system) by their employer.
Before mandatory social security whips through an economy-minded Congress, somebody needs to come up with some answers. The basic question, as with all of us, is: what about me? To be more specific, the questions include:
Will I lose, or gain, benefits under combined CS-social security? How much?
Do I lose any credits, vesting or rights built up under either system? If so, how much? If not, what guarantees do I get?
Social security if tax-free. Civil service pensions are taxed. How would combined benefits be viewed by the IRS?
I'm five (or 10) years away from retiring from government. Do I go into social security now? How would it work?
Is it true that lower-income civil servants would get better pensions under the combined system? How much better? What would it cost?
Higher income ($25,000 and above) civil servants would get about 5 percent less in retirement benefits under the combined systems than under straight federal retirement. How come?
Government workers can retire much earlier (in some cases 19 years earlier) than under social security, in which benefits begin at 62. What happens to the 50-year-old federal retiree?
Would mandatory social security mean an end to early-retirement options in government?
Federal, postal and retiree groups are still digesting the 300 pages of complex options and arguments that favor social security for their people.
But you can bet most will oppose it. They have already raised more than $3 million to fight it on Capitol Hill. And money is coming in still.
Unless pro-social security types can provide convincing guarantees to the effect that government workers won't be hurt, they would be crazy to volunteer for social security.
Those of us who have no choice about social security coverage might like to have the feds along for the ride. Misery does indeed love company. We'll fix you and your fat pensions! But the feds don't have to climb aboard our social security choo-choo until somebody tells them where it is heading. And what the tickets cost.