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Parity in benefits for "public employees"
Old 02-19-2011, 12:22 PM   #1
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Parity in benefits for "public employees"

The long awaited moves to do something about the deficit are hear with proposed cuts to some "low hanging fruit" like heating allowance and Public Broadcasting. The States are looking at their pension and benefits packages and in case of WI looking into eliminating collective bargaining for state employees. Obviously there's lots to be saved in Medicare and social security, but will we ever consider reducing the pensions and benefits of veterans. They get early retirement option, great pensions and awsome health care. Will their benefits packages ever be questions like other "government employees"?
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Old 02-19-2011, 12:49 PM   #2
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The long awaited moves to do something about the deficit are hear with proposed cuts to some "low hanging fruit" like heating allowance and Public Broadcasting. The States are looking at their pension and benefits packages and in case of WI looking into eliminating collective bargaining for state employees. Obviously there's lots to be saved in Medicare and social security, but will we ever consider reducing the pensions and benefits of veterans. They get early retirement option, great pensions and awsome health care. Will their benefits packages ever be questions like other "government employees"?
As a public pensioner I know I have and many other public employees have at times been inside the bubble too long to realize how the real world has changed the last 20 years retirement wise. Wisconsins plan although painful does not appear to be too drastic. My understanding of the de-certification of the union is to allow local government agencies cut salaries. This is a problem that faces entities such as education. When you cant cut salaries many programs for the kids suffer because you layoff a lot of personal as it is usually about 70% of the cost. If you could lower salaries say 3% or so across the board, programs and such are spared and allowed to still run effectively. Tough balancing act, but the public workforce have to understand people in general are tired of taxes.
The pension issue to me is more complex. Some governments overpromised, while some borrowed and didnt repay, while others didnt contribute what they were originally supposed to.
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Old 02-19-2011, 01:02 PM   #3
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Regardless of your position on unions, it seems that the actions in Wisconsin are really damaging public opinion of unions in general.
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Old 02-19-2011, 01:16 PM   #4
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The long awaited moves to do something about the deficit are hear with proposed cuts to some "low hanging fruit" like heating allowance and Public Broadcasting. The States are looking at their pension and benefits packages and in case of WI looking into eliminating collective bargaining for state employees. Obviously there's lots to be saved in Medicare and social security, but will we ever consider reducing the pensions and benefits of veterans. They get early retirement option, great pensions and awsome health care. Will their benefits packages ever be questions like other "government employees"?
I certainly would oppose this VERY strongly. I never served in the military, but I was a career govt employee. I do a lot of volunteer w*rk for veterans, i.e. I see veterans face to face on a daily basis.

Apples and oranges comparison going on here.

Absolutely no way could you ever compare a military member to "other government employees", with the exception of federal law enforcement and civilian national defense positions. There are probably some other high risk civilian categories I omitted, and I welcome other forum members to add on.
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Old 02-19-2011, 01:18 PM   #5
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Regardless of your position on unions, it seems that the actions in Wisconsin are really damaging public opinion of unions in general.
What actions are damaging public opinion? I watched this for several hours, to find evidence of misbehavior, and couldn't find any. If anything, this changed my beliefs (again). I've never been in a union, but have worked side by side.

There's a wide variety of unions out there, and I tend to waver back and forth on the issues. For instance, I know my local NJ teachers are paid a very nice wage. They have not given up anything in the 20 or so years I've been a taxpayer here. As working parents we've given up a lot in that period.

OTH, I know that many healthcare workers in the state system are paid less than the private sector, and pretty much have to care for society's castoffs.
No easy answers. But hardly a time to find more reasons to separate working people into different classes.
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Old 02-19-2011, 01:22 PM   #6
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I certainly would oppose this VERY strongly. I never served in the military, but I was a career govt employee. I do a lot of volunteer w*rk for veterans, i.e. I see veterans face to face on a daily basis.

Apples and oranges comparison going on here.

Absolutely no way could you ever compare a military member to "other government employees", with the exception of federal law enforcement and civilian national defense positions. There are probably some other high risk civilian categories I omitted, and I welcome other forum members to add on.
Not a career defense contractor, but I meet a lot of veterans, and hear a variety of stories. One must give credit and thanks to those who've gone into conflict, suffered injury and disability, and suffer the consequences each day.
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Old 02-19-2011, 01:49 PM   #7
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Obviously there's lots to be saved in Medicare and social security, but will we ever consider reducing the pensions and benefits of veterans. They get early retirement option, great pensions and awsome health care. Will their benefits packages ever be questions like other "government employees"?
There's no question that insurance premiums need to be increased. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff has stated that ballooning health care costs are "just simply not sustainable."

There have also been various committees that have examined military retirement. A committee last year recommended that retirement pay start at age 57 rather than at 20-and-out. (Ie., there's no reason that an able-bodied 45 year old can't go out and get a job like the rest of us chumps.) I believe that one military retiree on ER.org posted that this sort of proposal happens all the time though.

Finally, the President's Commission on Deficit Reduction, endorsed by Frank and Ron Paul, also mentions health care costs and compensation. The "Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation" proposed that non-pay benefits such as "tax advantages and housing and subsistence allowances" be included in compensation calculations.

Will it happen? No way. Military cuts, even with Gates asking for $100B to be cut, didn't make it in the House proposal to cut the deficit.
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Old 02-19-2011, 02:08 PM   #8
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I certainly would oppose this VERY strongly. I never served in the military, ...
Yes, but whatever would be proper, I suppose that whether veterans' benefits will be cut depends on how many veteran voters there are and whether they vote in a bloc.
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Old 02-19-2011, 02:15 PM   #9
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Yes, but whatever would be proper, I suppose that whether veterans' benefits will be cut depends on how many veteran voters there are and whether they vote in a bloc.
It will be very interesting to see if the veterans' benefits are attacked scrutinized or if the veterans' dependents benefits are scrutinized. This topic (dependents' benefits) has gone 'round and 'round in Congress for a long time.
Persons of both genders hastily marrying a service member explicitly for the sake of capitalizing on their benefits has long been a problem for those in uniform. Hmmmmm...
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Old 02-19-2011, 03:11 PM   #10
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My guess at the current moment there is more sympathy for military pensions than is for general government worker pensions. But there are so many layers of pensions at so many different levels with varying degrees of public funding to them that it is hard to paint a broad brush on them. But long term when the 401 K system of retirement (if I remember correctly, the 401K wasnt originally created to supplant pensions) plays out, it very well could create a society or haves and have nots in retirement.
But then again that problem will be overgeneralized as you have a lot people who paid a lot of their money into their pension system vs. some people who had 401K opportunities, but chose to buy cars and vacations.
You have some pensioners who double and triple drip, while others have modest pensions who are not going to recieve SS because of the WEP.
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Old 02-19-2011, 03:33 PM   #11
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I certainly would oppose this VERY strongly. I never served in the military, but I was a career govt employee. I do a lot of volunteer w*rk for veterans, i.e. I see veterans face to face on a daily basis.

Apples and oranges comparison going on here.

Absolutely no way could you ever compare a military member to "other government employees", with the exception of federal law enforcement and civilian national defense positions. There are probably some other high risk civilian categories I omitted, and I welcome other forum members to add on.
People who put their lives at risk are seen as a particular category deserving of rewards over and above some other categories. So emergency response people are often seen as a special case. However, the majority of the military are in logistics and never see combat. Are they deserving of the entitlements that the combat troops get? If you've been stationed in the US all your military career working in a purchasing office should you get the same VA medical plan as a combat veteran? Why not make them pay for their health insurance and contribute to their pensions? The US military still has a final salary pension scheme and surely it would be good to go over to a 401k type plan. After all we taxpayers are paying for all this and the defined contribution plan seems to be a far better way to fund retirement.
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Old 02-19-2011, 03:41 PM   #12
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Here is my take on the whole concept of the mess we are in. We have to cut gummint expenses, raise taxes or both (Federal for sure, also most state gummints). With that in mind, my "priority" would be that we somehow spread the pain "fairly". I have no idea what that would look like, but I'll give a couple of examples of what it wouldn't look like.

Proposals to get rid of people (i.e., yesterday, you had a job, tomorrow, you don't.);

Proposals to drastically increase taxes on subsets of the population (can you spell R-I-C-H?) Last year, your tax bill was $45K, this year, you're gonna "contribute" $85K;

Proposals to change benefits drastically (Last year your health care was "free", this year you gotta buy your own on the open market - with your money - or maybe it's just that this year you gotta pay the equivalent $13K premium - through our pool - that it costs Megacorp or Uncle to provide for you - with no subsidy.);

My point is that this could be painful (to everyone) or just downright ugly for a few.

I'm for spreading the pain. Anybody here think there's a way to do this painlessly, I'm all ears. Let's wish us all luck!
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Old 02-19-2011, 03:50 PM   #13
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People who put their lives at risk are seen as a particular category deserving of rewards over and above some other categories. So emergency response people are often seen as a special case. However, the majority of the military are in logistics and never see combat. Are they deserving of the entitlements that the combat troops get? If you've been stationed in the US all your military career working in a purchasing office should you get the same VA medical plan as a combat veteran? Why not make them pay for their health insurance and contribute to their pensions? The US military still has a final salary pension scheme and surely it would be good to go over to a 401k type plan. After all we taxpayers are paying for all this and the defined contribution plan seems to be a far better way to fund retirement.
Please educate yourself here.

Benefits Fact Sheets - Benefits - Veterans Benefits Administration

I do not wish to engage in a heated debate here. I'm having a good day and wish to keep it that way.
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Old 02-19-2011, 03:55 PM   #14
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others have modest pensions who are not going to recieve SS because of the WEP.
Just as an FYI since the wording of your statement implies that some folks are not going to recieve SS because of the WEP, WEP never reduces SS benefits to zero. When your SS is calculated using the WEP formula, you'll recieve less, but never zero.
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Old 02-19-2011, 04:09 PM   #15
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Just as an FYI since the wording of your statement implies that some folks are not going to recieve SS because of the WEP, WEP never reduces SS benefits to zero. When your SS is calculated using the WEP formula, you'll recieve less, but never zero.
You are correct, Youbet. I should also not suggest that the law is not inappropriate in some circumstances, either specifically mine. SS sends me yearly reports that I am eligable for several hundred dollars a month (before WEP kicks in). When all I really did was work part time for 5 years growing up 30 years ago.
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Old 02-19-2011, 05:28 PM   #16
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Here is my take on the whole concept of the mess we are in. We have to cut gummint expenses, raise taxes or both (Federal for sure, also most state gummints). With that in mind, my "priority" would be that we somehow spread the pain "fairly". I have no idea what that would look like, but I'll give a couple of examples of what it wouldn't look like.

Proposals to get rid of people (i.e., yesterday, you had a job, tomorrow, you don't.);

Proposals to drastically increase taxes on subsets of the population (can you spell R-I-C-H?) Last year, your tax bill was $45K, this year, you're gonna "contribute" $85K;

Proposals to change benefits drastically (Last year your health care was "free", this year you gotta buy your own on the open market - with your money - or maybe it's just that this year you gotta pay the equivalent $13K premium - through our pool - that it costs Megacorp or Uncle to provide for you - with no subsidy.);

My point is that this could be painful (to everyone) or just downright ugly for a few.

I'm for spreading the pain. Anybody here think there's a way to do this painlessly, I'm all ears. Let's wish us all luck!
I completely agree on spreading the pain. One of the big problems is that with rare exceptions (NJ governor Christie) the politicians are making no or only vague references to share sacrifice and aren't being at all specific.
Raising the retirement age is just the start. It means no and/or reduced COLA increases on pension or SS for many years. It means higher deductible on medicare for wealthy seniors, higher taxes on social security payments. It means moving public employees to a defined contributions.

It means higher taxes for everybody and especially higher taxes for "rich" people. Higher fees for most everything.

It is also means lower services and not just things that aren't popular like foreign aid, or drug treatments for the chronic abusers, or subsidies for the huge agriculture business. It means reduced library hours, less music, art and special ed teachers, probably bigger class size. A smaller armed services, with weapons systems that are only a decade or so more advanced than rest of the world.

As a country we have lived beyond our means for too many decades, and it is time for some Dave Ramsey like tough love.
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:03 PM   #17
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Please educate yourself here.

Benefits Fact Sheets - Benefits - Veterans Benefits Administration

I do not wish to engage in a heated debate here. I'm having a good day and wish to keep it that way.
Thanks useful information. Not sure how it is relevant to my question about reforming final salary pensions in the military to be more like a defined contribution plan. I don't mean VA pensions or other entitlements. I could well be wrong about the health care thing as that looks very complicated. Do active military pay health insurance premiums, I thought it was paid for by the Government. If so should we start asking soldiers to pay something towards their health care? Should we be asking veterans to pay more for their health care?

I know this is a bit provocative, but as someone mentioned earlier it's going to take sacrifice from everyone, which I believe means cutting and raising revenue ie taxes. But maybe the military has sacrificed enough already?
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:19 PM   #18
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I know this is a bit provocative, but as someone mentioned earlier it's going to take sacrifice from everyone, which I believe means cutting and raising revenue ie taxes. But maybe the military has sacrificed enough already?
I have no problem asking those folks who like a lot of our board members, served mainly in the 70,80,90s to chip in a bit more for their Tricare medical care since most of the time people weren't shooting at them.
On the other hand for those folks in the 20s and 30s who spent much of the last decade deploying multiple times to such garden spots as Afghanistan or Iraq, I am willing to dig deeper into my own pocket.

Starting 2015 Gates is calling for a smaller Army and Marines (cause hopefully we won't have any large scale shooting wars) that maybe a good time to start rethinking the benefits for armed services.
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:28 PM   #19
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:32 PM   #20
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Before the government would start whacking benefits and SS, I would like to know why the government wouldnt establish 2008 as the baseline year to evalute its entire budget. The budget, not deficit, has grown TWENTY percent since 2008. You cant blame that all on the masses turning 65! I realize the stimulus and such was going on, but its time to real that back. Just reverting back to that budget would help the situation tremendously. Not to mention the waste and need for zero based budgeting. I worked as a supervisor on a summer teen jobs training program for the government one year. At the end of the summer, I told my supervisor we completed all projects and had 25% of budget leftover. I thought I was being a steward of the tax payers dollars, instead I got criticized because now their budget will be cut the next year. Can you imagine how much that probably goes on in various departments?
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