Pay, Pensions, Puppies & The Debt Limit

Depending on the deal they reach (or fail to reach) on the debt limit, Social Security payments could be delayed and/or federal retirees might get smaller future inflation-adjustments, health premiums could jump dramatically and your TSP account could be impacted. Also premature deaths among puppies could spike.

(Actually, I made the last one up.Your pup is fine. He/She is one of the few things not on the negotiating table. That was a cheap attempt to get your attention and I apologize. Although it did work, and in Washington winning is everything!)

The debt limit deal is serious, very serious, to be sure. I’m pretty sure.

But it is also an opportunity for highly partisan politicians to play poker with each other – using chips funded by the likes of you and me – and for the media to hyperventilate about the crises de jour even though most of us (guilty!) don’t understand exactly what’s going on.

What we do know – according to the politicians and their outlets – is that if the other guy doesn’t show to sense, and act in a statesmanlike manner, we are in a heap of trouble.

Republicans and Democrats, from sanctimonious liberal/progressives to sanctimonious Tea Party activists, have promised not to budge on core issues (like raising taxes or not). They have warned that unless the other side sobers up there will be trouble the likes of which we haven’t seen, ever. Except the last time this happened. And the time before that.

Whether Social Security payments will be delayed – as the White House hinted earlier this week – isn’t totally clear. The idea of not being able to borrow money from China, so that Aunt Myrtle’s Aug. 3 automatic deposit will clear, is troubling. On several levels.

As previously reported here, and elsewhere, working feds and retirees (in addition to being taxpayers) have some big ticket issues at stake. Maybe.

Deficit cutters have floated a number of ideas to save money. They range from extending the federal pay freeze beyond 2012; making feds and retirees pay a much bigger chunk of their health premiums; changing the formula used to determine retiree cost of living adjustments, and more. Defense is also planning to freeze hiring (other agencies will follow), and there is now talk of outsourcing more jobs now done by federal workers.

A few months back Washington (and to a lesser extent the rest of the country) was apoplectic about the prospect of furloughs and or a government shutdown. Some folks thought it would be the end of civilization as we know it. Others thought it would be a nice break.

This time, we are told, things are much more serious and the consequences would make a government shutdown look like a time-out at a T-ball game.

During yesterday’s Your Turn radio show we played truth or consequences with three experts on the the situation: Dan Adcock, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees, and Federal Times Washington-watchers Steve Watkins and Steve Losey. They gave us a worst-case scenario, explained the possible repercussions of a White House-Congress stalemate and explained how, and to what degree, your pay and benefits are on the table. The show is archived on our website so you can listen anytime you like by clicking here.

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