March 30, 2005

APRIL IN PARIS

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Russian composer Vernon Duke penned the words to the well-known song, â??April in Paris,â?? in 1932. A story is told of a friend of Dukeâ??s who liked the song so much he decided to spend April in--you guessed it--Paris. Many times, art is a reflection of what we would like life to be, not what it actually is, and so it was for Dukeâ??s friend. He returned to report terrible weather. "Whatever made you go to Paris in April?" Duke asked. "Everybody knows the weather is bad then.""I went because of your song," complained the friend."Ah," said Duke apologetically, "I really would have liked to have used May, but the rhythm required two syllables."The friend learned a valuable lesson, one that many have passed on: Donâ??t believe everything you hear. In the age of instant news and Internet, we should be cautious about the information we credit as authoritative and accurate.April Fools is a good time of year to debunk misinformation that generates letters and phone calls to my offices. E-Mail TaxRumors that Congress is considering legislation to levy charges or taxes on email are exactly that-- rumors. Such charges would inhibit the accessibility, growth and free-market competitive nature of the Internet. The Internet is an affordable information and communication resource that used wisely and responsibly, can improve our quality of life. Retirement and Social Security for Members of CongressBefore 1983, there was a separate retirement system for Members of Congress. Any person elected to the United States Senate or House of Representatives since 1984 is eligible for retirement under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which is the same for all federal employees. Members, like other federal employees, must serve five years to be â??vestedâ?? under the system. Retirement is based, in part, on years of service. Due to the uncertain tenure of Congressional service compared to other federal employment, Members receive a larger benefit for each service year, but also pay a higher percentage of salary for retirement benefits (more than one and a half times) than do other federal employees. Members of Congress do not receive full pay upon retirement and, as of 1984, ALL members pay the same Social Security payroll taxes that most workers do. When you encounter information that seems outrageous or too good/terrible to be true, a good rule of thumb is to go to the source. For questions about national legislation and laws governing any branch of the federal government, you can always go to my website, http://crapo.senate.gov and from there, link to public information websites. The Library of Congress hosts a web page called Thomas, which provides information on bills pending in committees to those enacted into law. It is as important to be discerning when it comes to those inevitable forwarded emails. Your computer is safer from virus infection if you donâ??t open emails from people you donâ??t recognize. When it comes to forwarding informationâ??that heartbreaking story about a child with a rare cancer, Microsoftâ??s give-away if you â??forward this to at least five people,â?? and any email promising millions for assistance in getting money out of Nigeriaâ??be advised that while there are legitimate stories out there, there are many more â??creativeâ?? e-mailers who like to spin a good yarn. April Fools Day happens once a year, but we get taken for a ride far more often. Be a thoughtful consumer of information; better a sunny May than a rainy April in Paris.