The last two administrations have tried to trim federal pension benefits to make them more like private pension plans. In today's leadoff letter, a fed suggests that private companies do their workers a favor and follow the leader.
A Monday Morning Quarterback from Arlington says he's grateful for what he gets and is willing to bite the economic bullet. And from Texas we get a beyond-the-Beltway view of U.S. pay raises:
*"Where is the fairness in the president's plan to reduce federal retirement benefits? What is the president asking private sector employees to give up?
"Every study . . . indicates federal pay is behind industry. The president wants to make federal retirement more like industry's. Is he aware that few private employees contribute 7 percent of pay (or anything) to their retirement?
"Why shouldn't private industry pension plans be more like ours, instead of the other way around? Does the president have something against retirees living as well as he does?" C.M., Gaithersburg
*"Here's one retiree who is tired of complaints from retirees. I am . . . thankful for my benefits and happy to relinquish cost-of-living raises to help reduce the deficit. Here's why:
"When I retired in my mid-50s, the 4 1/2 years I spent in military service was added to my 26 years in civil service, boosting my annuity accordingly, even though I put nothing in the retirement fund during military service. The year of sick leave I had was also computed in my annuity. When I signed on in 1946, there was no promise of a cost-of-living raise, but when I retired it came with my annuity.
"When I signed on there was no health insurance plan with a large part of the premium paid by the government, and there was no assurance I could keep the health plan after retirement. But I still have it.
"I see no reason to totally protect retirees from inflation unless they are at the poverty level. I think the proposal to keep cost-of-living raises 2 percent below the inflation rate is reasonable." F.H., Arlington
*"I retired on total disability after 34 1/2 years with the postal service and 2 1/2 in the military.
"I went to work in 1947 (when I was 22) because I needed a job. I wasn't thinking about the benefits Uncle Sam had in store for me. I worked hard to get my job and liked it. We raised five children; two are college graduates.
"But over the years I noticed a change in the public's attitude toward the postal service. We used to be everybody's friend. But eventually I was actually afraid to go out on my route because I was taking physical and verbal abuse from some people on my route.
"I blame the change on media cheap shots at postal employees, especially about supposedly 'lucrative' retirement benefits. If my wife wasn't working I couldn't make it. If the cheap shot artists think things are better in government why don't they get government jobs?" J.J.C., Falls Church
*"Your recent column "Pay Cut for Federal Workers Would Be Felt Across the Nation" further muddies the economic waters.
" . . . It is as if, somehow, by collecting a little money from everybody and sending it round-trip to Washington it would, on being returned to the hands of federal workers, somehow miraculously multiply in purchasing power so that everyone but the poor forgotten taxpayer would be better off. Humbug! This buys votes, not groceries. Here's for better economic reporting in future." A.K.D., Houston