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The Ryan budget plan: A path to inequality and national decline

The House Budget Committee’s proposed budget for 2013 continues the assault on federal employees by calling for a freeze on federal workers’ salaries for an additional three years and for massive cuts to retirement benefits.

“Federal workers are the heart and soul of the middle class,” NALC President Fredric V. Rolando said, “but it seems that some members of Congress are determined to keep trying to use federal workers’ pay and benefits as a sort of piggy bank to finance their budget proposals.”

Under the plan released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), federal employees would have their salaries frozen for three more years and would face massive cuts to the retirement benefits promised when they were hired.

“As employees of the United States Postal Service, letter carriers have earned the right to bargain collectively with our employer for our salaries, which are paid for purely by postal revenues and not by taxes,” Rolando said. “But fairly or not, the salaries of our brothers and sisters in the federal workforce often are held up as examples during our bargaining discussions, so federal pay freezes—or even cuts—could wind up having a negative effect on our own salary negotiations.

“Meanwhile, all of us rely on the federal system for our retirement benefits, either through CSRS or FERS,” he said. “Cutting those benefits not only would break a promise made to us when we were hired, forcing us to contribute more money out of our own pockets to help pay for these promised benefits they would amount to a further pay cut.”

Besides, Rolando said, the recently passed extension of the payroll tax holiday already includes a provision that requires new federal employees hired after this year to pay four times as much in retirement contributions as current employees pay.

“These newest attacks on federal workers’ pay and benefit seem to follow the example set by Congressman Dennis Ross,” Rolando said. In January, the Florida Republican introduced H.R. 3813, a measure calling for the wholesale elimination of the defined benefit pension that government workers receive under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Instead, under the Ross plan, FERS annuitants would be entitled only to the benefits earned through both Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), under the misguided notion since defined-benefit pensions are disappearing from the private sector, they should be taken away from government workers, too.

Ross has tried to attach H.R. 3813 to a number of high-profile bills, most recently a measure to reauthorize national highway-funding legislation.

The Ryan budget doubles down on the strategy outlined in last year's GOP budget: It would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, increase defense spending when we already spend more on the military than every other nation on earth combined, cut tax rates for corporations and the rich while phasing out tax deductions for the middle class, and massively downsizing just about everything else in the government, from the FBI and the EPA to the public education and infrastructure investments. It's not a "path to prosperity" as Ryan claims, but a path to inequality and national decline.

“The NALC strongly opposes this or any budget plan that wraps cuts to federal workers’ pay and benefits in the mantle of ‘deficit reduction,’” Rolando said. “Federal workers—and workers in general—did not cause this country’s budget problems, yet some in Congress seem hell-bent on making federal workers pay to fix them.”