Ideally, the headline on a news story, column or one of those TV crawlers will capture your attention. Without hyping or overstating the issue. People are smart. And their time is valuable. They don’t like to be tricked.
The headline on Wednesday’s column — $152 billion cosmetic surgery for your pension package — captured lots of eyes. Which was the point. But it was off. By a lot. And the good news, bad news is that it wasn’t sensational enough.
Turns out the proposed White House and congressional cuts to your take-home pay and your future retirement annuity will cost you around $192 billion. Forty billion-with-a-“b” dollars is a lot, even by Washington standards. That’s the official total estimate of the “savings” to the government (therefore cost to you as a worker/retiree) if all the proposed changes outlined in the column are approved this year. To checkout those nine cuts click here.
Back to the good news. The fact is that time is on your side. All the House and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection this year. There are a record number of retirements by long-time members of the House of Representatives. That plus changes in congressional districts and other major issues (like the danger of being a student today) mean we could have hard-fought campaigns in Blue, Red and Purple states and congressional districts. The House has cleared much of its legislative calendar so members can work on getting reelected. That means they will be out there, campaigning and seeking your votes not back here in D.C. trying to gut your retirement package.
There was a serious effort to slash the federal retirement package in 2017. Up until the very end of the legislative session, it appeared that Congress — or at least the House — would put one, maybe two of the cuts into law. Many believed that FERS retirees — current and future — would lose their inflation-protection if cost-of-living allowances were eliminated. Others thought there was a good chance FERS employees would be forced to pay more — between 5 and 6 percent of their salary —toward their retirement benefits. In other words a higher cost, lower payout retirement package. Wednesday’s Your Turn radio show, with NARFE’s Jessica Klement and Jill Talley, discussed the proposed cuts and what is likely to happen this year. To listen to that show, click here.
At the end of 2017, as so often happens with Congress, nothing — good or bad — happened. There were two mini-shutdowns, which were confusing and disruptive but short. One, which started over the weekend lasted three days. The second lasted about 69 hours. We face another one on March 23.
So is it Déjà vu all over again?
Past performance doesn’t mean Congress will, again, do nothing this year. If you belong to a union, association or group that represents federal workers, postal employees or retirees don’t quit to save a few bucks in dues. If you are thinking about writing your two senators or member of Congress to let them know you exist, work for the government (or retired from it) and vote, do it.
Bottom line is anything could happen. Or not. Don’t let down your guard, but you also don’t have to sleep with your pinky on the panic-button.