Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., has scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday on federal pensions, and feds aren’t going to like what he’s got in store. Ross, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, is going to look at how to move “the entire federal workforce, Congress included, to a more realistic and cost-effective defined contribution pension system as opposed to the bankrupting defined benefit plan.”
What would that mean? No more FERS pensions, for one, though it remains to be seen whether it would scratch pensions only for future employees or include some current employees.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is chairman of the full oversight committee, proposed just such a plan last October. Issa’s office last year said his proposed 401(k)-like defined contribution plan would operate alongside the similar Thrift Savings Plan, which is also a defined contribution plan. So, under Issa’s plan, you’d essentially have two 401(k)s.
In a statement set to formally go out on Monday, Ross said:
The American people are also, rightfully, outraged by the pension benefits guaranteed to a bloated federal workforce, paid for through an ever-increasing tax burden on the American worker. Too many hard-working Americans watched their pensions evaporate because of unsustainable promises. [...] As Congress looks for ways to cut costs, pension reform that ensures a positive return to the worker while delivering cost savings to the taxpayer should be job one.
It’s worth noting that while federal pensions are deeply underfunded by some $673 billion, that is entirely due to the poor design of the now-closed Civil Service Retirement System, and the far less-generous Federal Employees Retirement System was designed to always stay fully funded (although most of the funding for the FERS pension comes from the government).
But Ross also wants to bring Congress’ lavish retirement benefits back in line with those enjoyed by rank-and-file feds. (If you wanna get mad, take a look at this chart.) Ross and I had an exchange via Twitter this afternoon in which he said “time to make Congressional pensions like everyone else’s” and added the hashtag “#nomoreperks.” When I asked if that meant he thought a FERS lawmaker, for example, should get his pension calculated at 1.1 percent instead of the current 1.7 percent, Ross replied, “absolutely.”
That’s the first time I know of that Ross has called for equalizing federal and congressional pensions. And it looks like he will fulfill a promise he made to ABC News last November, to consider the multiple bills that would whittle down congressional pensions. But feds’ pensions may get caught in the crossfire.
If you’re on Twitter and would like to follow Federal Times’ reporters, here are our handles:
- Stephen Losey, who covers pay and benefits, can be found @stephenlosey.
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If you’re an advanced Tweeter, you’ve probably started the purging process and are now updating your account(s) to reflect changes in the House and Senate.
Researchers at HP Labs have narrowed the list down to the 100 most influential members of Congress on Twitter based on an analysis of 22 million tweets. They developed an algorithm to identify “influential users,” who “not only catch the attention of their followers” but “also overcome their followers’ predisposition to remain passive,” Ethan Bauley, digital lead for HP Corporate Communications team, wrote in a blog post.
Basically, having a cadre of followers wasn’t enough to make the cut.
Here’s the top 10:
1. Nancy Pelosi (@nancypelosi); D-Calif.; 15,964 followers (Here is the official account @SpeakerPelosi)
2. Paul Ryan (@reppaulryan); R-Wis.; 21,378 followers
3. Michele Bachmann (@michelebachmann); R-Minn.; 22,967 followers
4. Thomas Allen Coburn (@tomcoburn); R-Okla.; 17,631 followers
5. Bill Nelson (@senbillnelson); D-Fla.; 12,503 followers
6. John Boehner (@gopleader); R-Ohio; 48,604 followers
7. John McCain (@senjohnmccain); R-Ariz.; 1,718,288 followers
8. Joe Barton (@repjoebarton); R-Texas; 4,091 followers
9. Sherrod Brown (@sensherrodbrown); D-Ohio; 4,947 followers
10. Mike Pence (@repmikepence); R-Ind.; 13,631 followers
We hear kids these days are mighty fond of the Twitter and the Facebook, so we decided to get in on the act. You can sign up to follow our Twitter account here, and FedLine’s Facebook page can be found here.
Federal Times also has its own Facebook page here, in case you get tired of playing Mafia Wars and want the latest federal government news.
The Government Accountability Office wants you to interact with the agency online through its Twitter feed and YouTube page.
The GAO joins more than 50 federal agencies plus dozens of members of Congress in reaching out to the public through Twitter, though the GAO has a way to go to adopt the casual, abbreviated style of writing prominent on Twitter.Â Its most recent Twitter post may not be scintillating enough to draw many new users into GAO reports:
GAO-09-567, Tax Administration: IRS Should Evaluate Penalties and Develop a Plan to Focus Its Effort”
The YouTube page offers recruitment videos, as well as short productions explaining the Recovery Act. It can be viewed here.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said Twitter and YouTube provide new ways to reach Americans.
While we’ve made extensive use of the Internet for some time, posting material on YouTube and Twitter offers new possibilities to inform people about our efforts to promote accountability and transparency in federal programs and operations.”
The FBI tweets too. AndÂ isÂ tweeting right now to let folks know that agency hostage negotiators are on their way from Albany to Binghamton, N.Y. to respond to the shooting and ongoing hostage situation there.