By Tony Russell|
June 3, Washington - Administration officials and congressional leaders moved swiftly today to allay rising public fears that top government figures might face hardships in their retirement years because of impending cuts in Social Security and Medicare.
The most recent polls show a rapidly growing public concern that our nation's leaders will struggle after leaving office in view of slashes to retirement benefits and health care coverage.
"We have a responsibility to see that the quality of public servants' lives isn't jeopardized by worries about their old age or disability," said Art McGrady, an unemployed factory worker. "We have a moral obligation to them--simply because they're fellow human beings, of course, but also because they're people who labor tirelessly on behalf of all the rest of us." McGrady's sentiments, according to the polls, are widely shared.
Chuck Browning is a retired coal miner whose guaranteed health care benefits from Arch Coal disappeared when the company adroitly unloaded the bulk of its pension obligations onto a company it created, then kept a straight face as the new company went bankrupt and all those "guaranteed lifetime benefits" vanished. Browning said, "I know what it's like to lose that sense of security. For me it has felt like falling down a mine shaft. So I can't help worrying about our nation's leaders. They're human beings who don't deserve to be used by the public and then simply discarded and forgotten when they're sick or old. We are family, and family members care for one another. We're all brothers and sisters in this world."
Members of West Virginia's Congressional delegation--Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (maximum net worth in 2011 of $2.8 million), Rep. David McKinley (maximum net worth in 2011 of $13.1 million), Rep. Nick Rahall (maximum net worth in 2011 of $2.97 million), Sen. Joe Manchin (maximum net worth in 2011 of $11.7 million), and Sen Jay Rockefeller (maximum net worth in 2011 of $116.4 million)--issued a joint statement to the Hur Herald expressing their gratitude for the outpouring of support. "We are moved and humbled by your concern," the statement read. "We hope we can continue to deserve your trust."
Secretary of State John Kerry (estimated net worth more than $200 million) declared, "We always have the people's best interests in mind, of course. I can't tell you how gratifying it is to know that the good intentions are reciprocal."
Eric Holder, Obama's Attorney General (estimated net worth of $11.5 million), echoed the sentiment. "As we go about making tough decisions to axe programs, it strengthens our conviction we are doing the right things when we find the public has our back," he declared.
Penny Pritzker, Mr. Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary (estimated net worth of $1.6 billion), said in a prepared statement released by her press secretary, "We're just ordinary people, with the same burdens and concerns as everyone else. It's touching to know that the public identifies with us and is stepping forward to assure that our needs are met."
New Treasury Secretary Jacob "Jack" Lew, one of the most vulnerable of Cabinet-level members with a net worth of only $1.7 million, has called the groundswell of good will "heartwarming."
Mr. Obama himself (maximum net worth estimated at $11.8 million) and new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (maximum net worth of $10.9 million) recently won the hearts of millions of unemployed and underemployed citizens when they announced they are voluntarily surrendering 5% of their government salaries in a show of solidarity with the most vulnerable Americans, who have borne the brunt of recent budget cuts.
The 5% cut means Mr. Obama will have to manage on an annual salary of just $380,000. Per capita income for West Virginians in the past 12 months was $22,010.
In an echo of Bill Clinton's famous remark, Mr. Obama told a group of disabled and unemployed veterans from the Iraq and Afghan resource wars, "We share your pain. Thank you for sharing ours."
© Tony Russell, 2013
Note: The public probably shouldn't be too worried, as congressional pensions are vested after only five (5) years of service. Members can collect their full pension at the age of 62 with 5 years of service. Presidential pensions start immediately after a new president is sworn in. In 2011 it was $199,700 per year, supplemented by staff and office allowances, travel expenses, Secret Service protection, and other perks, including free medical treatment at military hospitals for themselves, their spouses, their widows, and their minor children.
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