In today's Monday Morning Quarterback, two federal retirees square off about the merits of the system Uncle Sam once used to give retirees cost-of-living pension adjustments every six months. Congress eliminated the twice-yearly COLAs in 1982.
Retiree No. 1 says the super-COLAs were fiscal insanity. He says pension raises during that period should be recomputed and lowered. Our second quarterback says she retired expecting to get two raises a year, and now can't make ends meet.
"For the past three years retiree raises have averaged 2.6 [percent] annually. That is reasonable by any standard and evidence the Reagan administration has gotten the problem that existed prior to 1982 under control. The COLA system is now working as it was intended and should.
"By comparison between mid-1972 and 1982 the raises averaged 8.6 percent each year and reached a peak of 13.7 percent during 1980. These increases were outrageous and produced gross inequity among retirees creating two classes -- those who retired prior to 1982 who received enormous increases and enjoyed annuities that far exceed their counterparts who retired since.
"If some of the staunchest friends of federal government workers and retirees really want to regain bucks, why not go for equity also? Reach back through 1972 and recompute basic annuities at 2.6 percent per year compounded. Adjust all the annuities immediately." B.H.E., Camp Springs
"I retired from the govern- ment five years ago due to ill health. Under the system then in effect (of two cost-of-living raises a year) I calculated I could make it on my small annuity.
"To date I have received three raises instead of the nine I had counted on, with the result that my annuity is now around $3,000 less per year than it would have been under the old system. Right now 60 percent of my monthly annuity goes for rent, leaving me far from enough for living expenses.
"I'm working again for a fraction of my former federal salary to make ends meet. And now they are proposing to eliminate the long-awaited January raise too!
"The only solution will be to give up my modest, below- market apartment and move to some high-crime slum area. Is this the thanks I get from my government for breaking my back for it over a lifetime? Yes, I believe some of us civil servants really did earn our pay, and then some!" Disgusted and Disgruntled in Arlington
" . . . The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is considering the confirmation of Acting Public Printer Ralph Kennickell. He is . . . held in high esteem and admiration by almost all employes at the Government Printing Office for what he has accomplished there. His final confirmation has been delayed needlessly [pending an FBI report because Kennickell overstated his private-sector salary on federal job applications].
"We know the votes on the committee favor Kennickell but . . . time is running out! Thousands of GPO workers have signed voluntary petitions favoring Kennickell's confir- mation. The fine job he is doing should count for something." D.T., Alexandria
"I was charged recently (based on rumors) with taking a picture of an office director while he was asleep. More than 30 other staff members were asked if they witnessed anyone taking pictures since I would not admit to any picture-taking.
"Now, all this time was spent trying to find a picture-taker when the real problem is a director habitually taking afternoon naps for the past four years. . . . This nap-taker earns $35 an hour, but so what? The name of the game is to find the picture-taker?" Camera Shy