Lots of reaction (all negative) from federal worker groups to Sen. Jesse Helms' (R-N.C.) plan to freeze federal pay and cut back cost-of-living raises for retirees and Social Security beneficiaries.

National Federation of Federal Employees President James M. Pierce says the Helms plan is unconscionable. He said feds have been told, for the last 10 years, to make sacrifices as an example for the rest of the nation. "We've been told to lead the way and others would follow," Pierce said. "Well, we did, but nobody followed."

Senior Executive Association President Jerry Shaw says the Helms plan , which includes a 5 percent pay cut for members of Congress and unspecified federal officials--is a backward step that could cost the government money and talent. Shaw says the retirement rate for 55- to 60-year-old federal executives quadrupled during the period when executive pay was frozen, causing a drain on the retirement system and the loss of some of the best brains in government.

A number of readers have suggested that members of Congress who are anxious to help the government could rescind the recent tax break, exempting up to $20,000 of their income from taxes, they voted themselves. Don't hold your breath.