Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reconciliation and the U.S. Congress: A Study in Hypocrisy; and other Joys

Just watched a great video on YouTube about reconciliation, that legislative process through which, in theory, differences in Senate and House legislation are ironed out. While reconciliation was meant to be used only for budgetary matters, it has been used for other things.

Thing is, when the Democrats are IN of power, they *like* reconciliation, which requires just 51 votes in the Senate rather than a super-majority (as it's rather amusingly called) of 60 to ram legislation through. When the Democrats are out of power, they *hate* reconciliation. But don't go congratulating the Republicans; they're indistinguishable from their Democrat buddies when it comes to reconciliation. Just watch the video:

Then there's the matter of health insurance for employees of the federal government. No one will seriously dispute (I hope) that if workers in the private sector deserve I*some* sort of coverage through their work, then so do federal employees. But it sort of depends on what we mean by "*some* sort of coverage," doesn't it?

I mean, did you know that under circumstances the EX-employees of a federal employee can continue being covered. Or, more startlingly, so can -- get this (Dave Berry ought to write about this) -- so can an ex-SPOUSE.

The last time I worked in the U.S. was mid-1990, after which I returned to These Asian Climes. I can just see myself calling up my former employer in Texas and saying, "Hey, the game's changed, and I want medical coverage again from you guys. By the way, remember my wife? I want her on the plan too. What's that? No, we're not; we split in 1994 -- but I KNOW MY RIGHTS and you BETTER cover her!"

It gets better (if you define "better" in a really, really weird way). I ran across the main page for federal employee health insurance. Of course, when you start following the links, things become mind-numbing. But on the main page (URL to follow) you see there are two basic groups, one by geographic region, the other by service (fee-per-service plans), and the employee can choose either approach. Fair enough. The employees are also divided within each of those groups into two sub-groups: postal employees, and non-postal ones.

I pulled up the pages for each under the geographic plans. I scrolled down to the very first listing under Texas, and saw that of a biweekly premium totaling $194.30, the part the employee pays is . . . are you ready for this? . . . $28.17. That's a princely 15%, folks -- actually, a tiny fraction shy of that. "So," you ask, "who pays the rest of the taxes?" Do you pay federal taxes! Go look in the mirror and congratulate yourself for winning the gold in the Premium-Paying event.

Here are the links to the main page, then to the one where I found the above example:

http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/rates/index.asp (main)

http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/rates/postalhmo2010.pdf (postal)

You might also want to look at About.com's page on Congressional benefits. While members of Congress don't get *quite* the perks some think they do; certain ones have an average retirement income from *just there government service ("service," ha-ha) of dollars shy of $61,000. That's right: 61 G-notes, more than a lot of working stiffs make at full-time jobs (if they have one, that is).


I read sometime ago that members of Congress can get full medical coverage for -- as I recall -- a puny premium of $503 per year. And if a Representative or Congressman needs to have the finest heart surgeon, so be it. (A few actually refuse this benefit, to their eternal credit, in my opinion.)

A final beef, probably my personal Number 1: amendments to a bill that have ZERO to do with the bill, especially OINK-OINK-bring-home-the-PORK! amendments.I wish the Founding Fathers had written into the Constitution that if an amendment wasn't CLEARLY related to a bill, then nope, it couldn't be stuck on.

Snuffle snuffle oink oink.

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