Are federal workers overpaid? Checking the facts

Are federal employees overpaid? Republican leaders in Congress think so, and they are calling for an overhaul of the entire federal pay system to help slash government spending. Democrats and other defenders of the government work force say federal workers are actually underpaid compared with their private counterparts. A closer look at the data shows that both sides have a point but that supporters of federal workers are a bit closer to reality. The debate has heated up since the GOP budget blueprint unveiled this week calls for federal pay “to be reformed to be in line with the private
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GOP looking at one-week budget extension

Republicans battling with President Barack Obama over budget cuts are moving one-week legislation Thursday to avoid a government shutdown, despite opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats pressing for a longer-term solution. The move by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to advance the interim budget measure angered his Democratic negotiating counterparts and came after slower-than-hoped White House talks Wednesday night. The president said Republicans need to display more urgency, while Boehner said honest differences remain. Thursday’s GOP measure would combine a full-year Pentagon budget with a big slice of cuts to domestic programs as the price to keep the
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Government shutdown: A big risk for both parties

Democrats and Republicans say the last thing they want to do is to shut down the government. But with budget talks showing little signs of a breakthrough, there are growing worries that a stalemate could hurt the economy’s fragile recovery. Many economists and budget analysts suggest that a government shutdown, if it’s lengthy, or even a deal that calls for deep short-term spending cuts could stifle economic growth and lead the country back into recession. Private forecasters already have lowered their growth projections for this year based on surging fuel, food and raw material costs, and tensions in the Middle
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GOP budget will raise health care costs for seniors

Congressional budget experts say future retirees would pay more for health care under a new House Republican budget proposal. The fiscal blueprint would put people now 54 and younger in a different kind of health care program when they retire. Unlike parents and grandparents in traditional Medicare, they’d get a federal payment to buy private insurance from a choice of government-regulated plans. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, in an analysis released late Tuesday, said a typical beneficiary would spend more for health care under the proposal. GOP leaders want the House to act quickly on the ambitious plan from House
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No budget deal yet: Next stop, shutdown?

Talks appear to be intensifying on Capitol Hill on reaching a deal on long-overdue legislation to finance the government through the end of September — and avoid a government shutdown. Whether a shutdown can be avoided in three days’ time is another matter. A White House meeting Tuesday that included President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., failed to produce the hoped-for breakthrough, however, with a stopgap government funding bill set to expire Friday at midnight. Obama ratcheted up the pressure afterward, sounding exasperated with Republicans for not warming to a White
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Obama calls Boehner to White House to talk budget

U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks in front of fellow GOP leaders about Senate Democrats and their failure to pass a long-term bill to cut spending and keep the U.S. government running while on Capitol Hill in Washington. REUTERS/Larry Downing President Barack Obama has summoned the top Republican in Congress to the White House on Tuesday for talks aimed at averting a government shutdown this weekend. Negotiations have stalled on legislation blending immediate spending cuts with the money required to run federal agencies through the end of September. Democrats are accusing the GOP of pressing harmful spending cuts
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Baby boomers worried about retirement

Baby boomers are starting to retire, but many are agonizing about their finances and believe they’ll need to work longer than they had planned, a new poll finds. The 77 million-strong generation born between 1946 and 1964 has clung tenaciously to its youth. Now, boomers are getting nervous about retirement. Only 11 percent say they are strongly convinced they will be able to live in comfort. A total of 55 percent said they were either somewhat or very certain they could retire with financial security. Yet a substantial 44 percent express little or no faith they’ll have enough money when
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Obama makes it official: He’s running for second term

President Barack Obama formally launched his re-election campaign Monday, urging grass-roots supporters central to his first campaign to mobilize again to protect the change he’s brought in his first term. The official start of his second White House bid comes 20 months before the November 2012 election. “We’re doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build,” Obama said in an e-mail to supporters. He told them he
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Who decides how to save the earth?

To the quiet green solitude of an English country estate they retreated, to think the unthinkable. Scientists of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and philosophy: In three intense days cloistered behind Chicheley Hall’s old brick walls, where British saboteurs once secretly trained, four dozen international thinkers pondered the planet’s fate as it grows warmer, weighed the idea of reflecting the sun to cool the atmosphere, debated the question of who would make the decision. The unknown risks of “geoengineering” — in this case, tweaking Earth’s climate by dimming the skies — left many uneasy. “If we could
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Romney tries to learn from past

In his first presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney sought back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire to propel him to the GOP nomination. He won neither, the two-state sprint failed and so did his candidacy. This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party’s 2012 nominee. On his first trip this year to Nevada, the former Massachusetts governor toured a neighborhood north of Las Vegas Friday that has been very hard hit by foreclosures and talked throughout his
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