Questionnaire Update: Twenty-two thousand cards and letters. And still counting.
More than 22,000 have "voted" in the past two weeks since this column asked people how they felt about proposed major changes in federal and military pension programs. The mail is still coming in.
Two weeks ago readers were asked whether they favor or oppose intergration of the federal retirement system with Social Security, a cutback in the frequency of COL (cost of living) raises, and whether they felt strongly enough over either issue to vote against President Carter, their senator or representative if they approve the changes.
More than 98 percent of the respondents said they oppose mandatory Social Security and the COL cutback (from two a year to one raise each year). More than 90 percent said they would vote against Carter, or any other politican, who votes for the pension changes.
The percentages aren't too suprising. The turnout is. That is a lot of people to sit down and fill out a questionnaire, or write side comments, stick a 15-cent stamp on a letter and actually mail it.
Not all of the responses were from Beltway Bureaucrats. They are the Washington-Maryland-Virginia federal community whom most politicians (and presidents) kiss off as being underworked, overpaid and out of touch with Main Street USA.
Thousands of letters came from REAL PEOPLE. Like FBI agents in North Carolina, and FAA aerial traffic cops in Kansas City and Oklahoma. Like Navy employes in San Diego and at least two registered voters from Cobb County, Georgia. A lot of them signed their letters and put on return addresses. They came from places real people do, places represented by the entire Congress, not just the metro Washington delegations.
Letters came from Hilo, Pearl City and Honolulu; from Trorrance, San Francisco, Chico, Marina Del Ray, Los Angeles and Long Beach; from Liberty and Kansas City, Mo.
Chicago and Charlotte sent a batch. Brooksville, Kentucky voted once. Mail came from Ypsilanti and Detroit. Lots from Morgantown, Charleston, Charles Town, Fairmont, and Clarksburg and Martinsburg, W.Va. From Reno, Waynesboro, Pa., Philadelphia, and Norwich, Conn.
Centerview, Mo., voted one time. A couple from Alton, Ill. Letters from San Bernadino, Norfolk, Nags Head and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Looking at the postmarks was a lesson in geography. Reading the comments a lesson in civic unrest. They came from Peachtree City., Ga. Twin Lakes, Wisc., Louisville, Altoona and Hollidaysburg, Pa. From Farms Hills, Mich.; Orono, Marine . . . Tampa . . . Fort Wayne . . . Buffalo and Flushing, N.y. . . . Jonesboro, George (2 letters) and Bableton in Jimmy Carter's home state. In fact, a lot of mail from the Atlanta and Macon areas. And Michigan, and West Virginia. The biggest turnout from Maryland, then Virginia. Almost as much from West Virginia as from the District of Columbia. From New Orleans, Rocky Mount, Nianti Conn . . . Utica and Chicago Heights.
Their message is they are mad as hell that Congress and the White House are messing with their retirement system. They feel the politicians are tyring to blame bureaucrats for inflation. And cut raises to retirees for inflation they are the victims of -- not the cause. Some comments:
Richmond, Va.: ". . . I'm a registered Republican who voted for Carter . . . I think his attitude toward the Civil Service and his past actions are wrong -- despicable and harmful to the service. His 'savings' attributed to his pay and COL cutting measures are a drop in the bucket of government expenditures."
Rock hill, S.C.: ". . . Our problems are probably compounded by the fact that the President and our Senators are millionaires to close to it. They are insulated from the shocks inflation brings the rest of us . . ."
Memphis, Tenn.: "I think President Carter should concentrate on reducing inflation instead of planning ways to reduce federal employes' pensions. Hs gave away the Panama Canal and is paying Panama to take it. If he can do that for Panama why does he have to reduce federal employes' pay and pensions? We have worked years for our retirement."
Brandywne, Md.: "No matter what happens between now and election-time, I will vote against Carter versus any other opponent. No one could be worse as far as the federal employe is concerned. Not to mention how he and his administration have screwed up the economy and the Iranian situation."
You get the message: These people vote, pay taxes and consider themselves good citizens. And they are mad as hell.