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Congress raids Military Pensions

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 01-03-2014 | in Government, Ethics, Critical Thinking, Economics,

Congress raiding of military veterans' pensions brings shame to America. A 2014 federal budget provision subtracts one percentage point of the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for pensions of military retirees younger than 62 years old. Reportedly, the COLA penalty will save the government about six billion dollars in spending over ten years. Therefore, Congress flouts our nation's moral and contractual duty to military retirees for a small $600 million a year cut in spending.

Inflation reduces the buying power of the dollar and forces consumers to spend more to buy the same amount of goods and services. The annual COLA adds more dollars to military pensions by a rate estimated to equal buying power lost to inflation. Therefore, the annual COLA only restores the pension's original buying power without adding net monetary gain. Without the COLA, military and other retirees suffer a reduced standard of living from inflation.

The Military Officers Association of America estimated the one-percent COLA penalty cost more than $83,000 in lost income over 20 years for the typical enlisted member retiring at 40, and a loss of $124,000 for a typical retired officer. Congress levies federal income tax on military pensions from the first day of retirement no matter the retiree's age. It has a similar contractual and moral duty to protect all military retirees' pensions equally from inflation.

U.S. Code Title 29 / Chapter 14 / Section 623 says, "It shall be unlawful for an employer-(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age."

The Federal Government is the employer of U.S. Armed service members and retirement pay is part of their compensation. Therefore, Code Section 623 prohibits the Department of Defense from reducing the value of younger retirees' pension based only on age. I understand Congress passed the original age-discrimination law to protect older workers from discrimination. Nevertheless, Section 623 clearly makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual regarding compensation based on age.

"Despite more than a decade of warfare following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, only about 0.5% of the American population has been on active military duty at any given time," according to the Pew Research Center survey. Only 15 percent of enlisted personnel will ultimately be eligible for retirement, according to the Congressional Research Service. Now Congress imposes a special pension tax on the pensions of military retirees younger than 62.

Supposedly, equal opportunity in America rewards hardworking, education-seeking people with security and upward mobility. Career members of America's armed forces displayed all those qualities while also protecting the nation. Therefore, thoughtful people must question why Congress selected military retirees for discrimination. The answer is easy. They are an identifiable minority group without wealth or power that Congress can target for blame without fear of public protest.

Some people argue that military pensions are overly generous and Congress needs to change them. They say that retirees' pensions drain money from current defense personnel and equipment needs. This is a poorly reasoned conclusion that blames retirees for Department of Defense officials' mismanagement of funds.

Armed forces members worked long hours without overtime pay during their military careers especially during deployments. They earned retirement pay each year of service. Department of Defense civilian managers had the duty to set aside money from budgets of those years to meet accruing pension obligations. Instead, they spent it as interest free loans. Now that past debt reflects in the 2014 federal budget that Congress deceitfully asserts is new spending for military pensions. However, Congress is conspicuously silent about the bonus government receives by paying zero pension credit to the 85 percent of people that served in military without qualifying for 20-year pensions.

Republicans violate constitutional protection against abuse of power with coercive tactics that shutdown the government.

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 10-10-2013 | in Political, Government, Democracy, Critical Thinking, Freedom,

America's founders wrote a Constitution the set out the power and authority of representative government for the Republic. Currently rogue members of Congress violate those principles with a coup or pursuit for power that shut down the federal government. From ignorance and media framing, the people fail to recognize this loss of liberty and attempt to control government by coercion. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution says, "All legislative powers granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives."

The two-chamber Congress provides a balance of power between the House of Representatives with members based on state population serving two-year terms and the Senate with two members from each state serving six-year terms. This balance helps provide fresh ideas from frequent turnover in the House and institutional stability from longer-termed Senators. Otherwise, America could have a new Congress and different legislative philosophy every two years with a resulting unstableness of government.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution lists many powers of Congress. Some powers are to lay and collect taxes, pay debts, provide for the defense and general welfare of the United States, borrow money on the credit of the United States and pass laws to execute those duties.

Undoubtedly, passing a budget and setting a debt ceiling are within the equal authority and duty of both the House and Senate. This Congress agreed to pass a Continuing Resolution and delay discussion of complex budget issues. A Continuing Resolution is, "Legislation in the form of a joint resolution enacted by Congress, when the new fiscal year is about to begin or has begun, to provide budget authority for Federal agencies and programs to continue in operation until the regular appropriations acts are enacted." The Continuing Resolution fulfills Congress primary duty to guarantee a continuously operating federal government that provides for the general welfare of the Republic.

The House did not forward a simple Continuing Resolution for the Senate to agree with as a legislative body of equal power and authority. Instead, the House Republican majority one-sidedly added an amendment to the resolution that changed an existing law, Affordable Care Act. It sent this amended resolution as legislation the Senate must concede to or face federal government shutdown from lack of funding. Clearly, this one-sided action by House Republicans was a strategy to seize an unequal share of power and authority over government spending and legislation from the Senate not granted by the Constitution. This House Republican action supported by the threat not to agree with simple Resolution and to shut down government was an unconstitutional seizure of power.

So far, Republicans managed to justify their attack on the Republic as a strategy to defund the Affordable Care Act and prevent high health insurance and healthcare costs. However, the United States ranks seventh highest in national wealth although unevenly divided. Americans have poor reasoning ability that decide possible Affordable Care Act costs threaten their liberty and the welfare more than Republicans' threats to shut down government.

History shows the movement in a society to unify power in one group or person increase rather than decrease. Other groups with goals to control government power beyond constitutional limits will copy House Republican Party members' extortion methods if they succeed using threats to extend power over legislation.

Congress also has the duty to set a debt limit, use of credit, to pay for spending during this fiscal year or a shorter period. Using their strategy of coercion, Republican House members refused to agree with a debt limit unless Senate Democrats conceded to a reduction of entitlements like social security. Once again, Republicans argue deceitfully that they resist raising the debt ceiling to limit spending by the Democrat Party and President Obama.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) July 23, 2012 study about debt reduction policy disputes Republican claims about the purpose of the debt limit. It concluded, "The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay bills incurred." In other words, it limits the Treasury Departments ability to borrow money to finance the debt created by decisions already enacted by Congress. This conclusion is true given that tax revenue supports most government spending that can continue regardless of credit limits.

This same GAO study reported the federal government incurred more costs of billions of dollars when Congress delayed approving the debt limit until near its expiration date. This GAO description of debt management shows the insincerity of Republican Party members' reasoning for withholding approval of the debt limit.

The motives for Republicans' threats against the Republic are obvious if one ignores their rhetoric and decide them from the results they seek. They shut down the government to prevent the Affordable Care Act extending health insurances to lower-income families and Americans with existing health problems. They threaten to withhold approval of the debt limit and allow the Republic to default on debts to win concussions from Democrats to reduce social security benefits and Medicare coverage. Legislation to increase the federal minimum wage level or to provide for fair wages is objectionable to them.

I admit that much Democrat legislation and economic policy is economically unsound. Nevertheless, they promote policy motivated to improve the welfare of the people without threats to disrupt government operation. Congress can improve deficiencies in the proposed policies that mostly support goals set out in the preamble of the Constitution.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

I do not understand how anyone can believe that a political strategy that threatens to circumvent constitutional limits on government authority or that disrupt government services is in their best interest.

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