Washington Watch



Since the announcement of President Carter's election law "reform" package (which might more accurately be termed the nationalization of elections) an interesting informal coalition is emerging in opposition to it. Liberal and conservative groups (National Committee for an Effective Congress, Environmental Action Fund, National Conservative Political Action Committee, Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, etc.) are together in opposition to restrictions on political action committees, especially ideologically-oriented (as compared to business or labor) PAC's. The liberals don't want to come out against public financing, however. Meanwhile a coalition of conservatives and libertarians is emerging to fight the whole package, while a separate but interrelated coalition of libertarians, liberals and Gene McCarthy supporters is forming in opposition to the public financing aspect. McCarthy himself has vowed to get involved in the battle personally and intensively.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that election reform is designed to entrench the moderate wings cum labor sympathizers of both major parties in power while having a chilling effect on even slight ideological deviants (even those just a little more liberal or a little more conservative than the establishment consensus). Those whose dissent from orthodoxy goes deeper, such as libertarians or McCarthyites, will have an even more difficult time of it if the Carter proposals become law.

This is a good issue on which to write your representatives. A major campaign against the legislation is in the works, and it will be interesting to see what kind of clout this unusual alliance has. By all means, identify yourself as libertarian if you are one. (Senate: Washington DC 20510; House: Washington DC 20515)

For further information you might write to the Emergency Coalition to Save Free Elections (1835 K Street, N.W., Washington DC 20006).


I talked last week to a staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The poor young thing was distressed.

"There isn't even any legislation introduced or hearings scheduled, and we keep getting letters against any new draft. What are these people worried about?" That's a bit disingenuous. We have plenty to be worried about. The draft and its companion, universal compulsory national service, are very much live issues. They won't do it right away, but they're laying the groundwork to put one or the other in place quickly when the time comes. The letters in opposition do help. Keep them coming.

Good targets for letters include: Senate Armed Services Committee, Manpower and Personnel Subcommittee; Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA); Sen. James Stennis (D-MI) and Sen. Dewey Bartlett (R-OK). As well as your own Senators and Representatives. (U.S. Senate, Washington DC 20510).


When you're writing about military pensions, you're sure to get letters. I have, and I've been caught in an error. Military retirees do not retire at full pay, as I suggested. After 20 years they get 50 percent of base military pay, and the percentage goes up with more years of service. It's just that to some of us $15,456 per year (the average retirement pay for officers retiring as of 6/30/76) seems almost like a full salary. The figure for enlisted men is lower ($6,456 per year).

The real objection to the military retirement system is that it starts paying a pension (or "retirement pay"—same thing) as soon as the retiree leaves the service, when most of them are perfectly capable of earning a living at something else (and most do). In Fiscal Year 1975, for example, 28.3 percent took retirement while they were in their 30's; 61.1 percent while in their 40's; 10.3 percent while in their 50's; and only 0.3 percent while in their 60's. Someone in his 40's with a base pay of $15,000 per year for life is going to be doing pretty well when he gets another job.

Military retirees do very well indeed. Recent figures estimate that the average retired officer will get $330,000 in retirement pay before he reaches the "normal" retirement age of 65. The average retired enlisted man will get $150,000. Not bad for 20 years work. In fact, for 20 years work, the average military retiree gets seven times more in retirement benefits than the average 20-year worker in private industry.

Two final jabs. One writer wrote that the average military retiree is getting only $6,600 per year. The figure is $6,648, and includes those retired on various kinds of disability and all those retired since 1948. The relevant figure is what those retiring now are getting, and it's much higher. Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in private industry fringe benefits are (very conservatively estimated) 55 percent of the basic compensation.

And this discussion doesn't even touch on the number of military retirees who are "double-dipping" by collecting a military pension while on government payrolls in civilian jobs (many of them in the Pentagon). The figure for this year is 109,000 compared with 72,000 in 1972. For more information than you'll be able to digest on double-dipping, you might write to Sid Taylor, National Taxpayers Union (325 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E., Washington DC 20003)


A new organization has been formed to fight against "deprogramming," the increasingly prevalent practice in which parents of kids who are adherents of quaint religious sects (Moonies and Hare Krishnas are the chief targets, but some fundamentalist sects have been hit too) pay deprogrammers to take the kids and "persuade" them that they don't believe that stuff anymore. These sessions often involve physical torture and starvation. There has already been one documented case of a kid "deprogrammed" from his political beliefs.

With a recent San Francisco court decision which granted parents of Moonies over 21 the "right" to seize their kids and have them deprogrammed, this issue could become increasingly relevant. For information, write to Carol Gallo, Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, 2025 R St., N.W., Washington DC 20008.

Alan Bock is director of Libertarian Advocate, a Washington-based pro-freedom lobbying organization.