Federal Pensions: Not What They Used to Be

Federal Pensions: Not What They Used to Be

The opinion-page article ''The Most Unfair Noncut of All: Federal Pensions,'' July 21, is misleading. The lead paragraph asks why federal pensions are exempt from serious cost-cutting review. They aren't. They were reformed 10 years ago and there are now two systems, one for older federal employees, the other for new. Government contributions were reduced for the new system.

The article correctly observes that many federal retirees qualify for Social Security benefits based on other jobs in which they contributed to the fund. It doesn't mention the windfall law, which severely limits benefits for those in this category.

The article suggests military members be required to work for a pension until they are the same age as private industry retirees. The reason military members can retire after 20 years is that they are on duty 24 hours a day for two decades, give up many of their rights, and may be required to lay down their lives. As with air traffic controllers and law enforcers, more risk and harder work is balanced by earlier retirement. Federal pensions should be discussed, but the discourse was ill-served by this piece.

Mitch Barker Seattle

The authors accuse federal-pension defenders of using tactics of obfuscation. The article is itself a supreme example of such practice. It deliberately fails to mention sacrifices already made by civil-service retirees through reduced and delayed COLA's. Also, the statement that the new FERS (federal employees) system is nearly the same as the previous civil-service retirement system is blatantly false. It would take an article of similar length in order to correct all the errors.

The Concord Coalition, of which the authors are members, constantly attacks federal retirement systems even though they are not the cause of the budget deficit. Their favorite target, Social Security, is entirely self-supporting, yet they want to reduce its benefits in order to prop up other unfunded programs. Retirees have enough problems. The Congressional Research Service, which the authors treat with such disdain, is a far more accurate and unbiased source of information.

Richard Whitehead Merritt Island, Fla.

Focus on a democratic Lebanon

The opinion-page article ''Take the Chains Off Travel to Lebanon,'' July 14, suggests that the travel ban is hampering efforts by US companies to win business contracts in Lebanon.

The article overlooks the fact that under the present conditions of Syrian occupation, contracts that are being awarded must have the approval of Syria and its surrogates in Lebanon and they usually involve bribes and kickbacks, practices that US companies cannot do under American law.

Security cannot be measured by the estimated 45,000 United States citizens who traveled to Lebanon, for these people are Lebanese-Americans who have family connections there, know the territory, are not readily identifiable as Americans, and consequently are in far less danger than the non-Lebanese Americans. Europeans who travel to Lebanon are not targets of terrorism because the aim of the radical organizations is to hold American policy hostage and not that of Europe.

The American Embassy in Lebanon is better positioned than any of us here in the US to recommend policy options on whether to keep or lift the travel ban.

Those sincerely interested in Lebanon and its well-being should direct their efforts to more substantive issues than the lifting of the travel ban.

Let them work to make Lebanon a truly sovereign, democratic, secure, and free state that can act independently to attain peace and stability in the Middle East.

Daniel Nassif Washington

Washington Representative of the Council of Lebanese American Organizations

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ''Readers Write'' and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet E-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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