Many of the Washington area's 100,000 federal and military retirees must have felt like second-class citizens last week when their January pension checks arrived, without the 3.1 percent cost-of-living adjustment that was in Social Security checks.
Congress canceled the federal-military COLA on Dec. 12 as part of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction act.
The raise would have been worth $28 a month to the typical federal retiree.
Lots of the former feds -- judging from mail and telephone calls -- are angry that they were singled out to be stuck in the economic freezer.
Here are some comments to the Monday Morning Quarterback on the freeze and what to do about it:
"In spite of all the federal employees' gripes about cost-of-living freezes and possible taxes on the first few years' pensions, I don't see any mass exodus. Let them leave!
"In my law firm the policy is to grant only two weeks' annual leave and 10 days' sick leave a year. In addition, the eight-plus hours we are required to work, we work! No breaks other than lunch. Plus, we can be fired at the will of our bosses. We have no security. Nor does the support staff have a pension plan, or a cafeteria or lunch room. We eat at our desks. Turnover is high in the private sector, low in the federal government as everyone knows.
"Why don't the bureaucrats count their blessings and stop complaining?" S.J.H., Arlington
"Private industry might be smirking while the federal workers and retirees grouse about the loss of their annual catch-up raises. But there is a more important point that affects all of us, public and private.
"If the deficit reduction plan works (don't hold your breath), we might get back to inflation rates of under 2 percent a year: not very damaging to income and savings. But if those measures don't work and inflation stays high, pensions, pension fund investments and income will be ravaged again. At inflation rates of 10 percent a year, it takes about seven years to cut purchasing power in half.
"The government doesn't just owe the feds a cost of living adjustment. It owes all its citizens a stable currency. Anything less is confiscatory tax." D.H., Gaithersburg
"When I was teaching, federal law allowed me to renegotiate my salary with my employer whereby my contribution to the retirement plan was deemed nontaxable until I elected to draw it out for my personal use.
"As a federal employe I would like the same right. I would like to see this matter before Congress so I could deal appropriately with any president or member of Congress who opposed it." G.S., Arlington
"Last week one of your readers suggested that retirees send politicians a message by registering as independents rather than Republicans or Democrats . I have a follow-up suggestion:
"When any federal retiree receives a letter from the Democrats or Republicans asking for a contribution, make out a check to the appropriate committee and then write in bold letters across the face of the check CANCELED DUE TO CANCELLATION OF THE COLA. Hit them in the pocketbook, just like they hit us." J.L.D., McLean