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Government workers enjoy increasing privilege

Updated: September 14, 2013 6:11AM

In advocating passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” Well, members of Congress finally got around to reading the ObamaCare law they passed — or more likely, someone told them what’s in it — and, yikes, they found something they didn’t like.

Some nasty Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa it turns out, put in language requiring members of Congress and their staff to get health insurance through the same exchanges the law sets up for Americans not covered through their employers.

What this means is that thousands of Capitol Hill staffers lose their generous insurance under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — subsidized to as much as 75 percent of the premium costs — and would have to reach deep into their pockets to pay for matching coverage under the exchanges.

The Office of Personnel Management, with the OK of President Barack Obama, rode to the rescue to “clarify” — as Politico put it — the situation with a regulation. OPM will chip in the same amount as under the old program and it won’t be counted as additional taxable income.

This episode, maybe a minor one, shines a light yet again on the privileged status increasingly accorded government workers.

Once they were low-paid folks with fairly nice benefits. Over the years, thanks to the growth of public employee unions, their dues-funded campaign contributions and their ballot-box clout, government workers, especially at the federal and state levels, enjoy generous pay, job security and pensions that are the envy of the rest of us. Retirement, sometimes early, can mean checks as high as 75 percent of their pay.

What’s more, these generous pensions are enshrined in state constitutions in places like Illinois, California and Michigan. Is your pension protected like that? With Detroit in bankruptcy, union advocates claim the state constitutional protection trumps U.S. bankruptcy law that would reduce pensions. That position seemingly contradicts the supremacy of federal over state law, but liberals finally found a states’ rights issue they like.

With secure jobs, pay and benefits, bureaucrats exercise government authority with increasing arrogance. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the scandal over the Internal Revenue Service targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for harassment. With Obama and top Democrats in Congress blasting the Tea Party movement, IRS personnel — and it’s worth noting their union overwhelmingly favors Democrats — didn’t need to be ordered to pour on extra scrutiny to conservative groups.

How has the IRS brass responded to legitimate questions about its laser focus on groups opposed to administration policy? With evasions, I-don’t-knows, and vague and disingenuous answers. One official at the center of the storm, Lois Lerner, took the Fifth Amendment to avoid questions from Congress. The White House tries to insinuate that this is a “phony scandal.”

But it’s become clear that government workers have erected a Camelot — “simply not a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering” — for themselves while treating taxpayers funding it as serfs worthy only of contempt.

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