Congress Makes for a Great "Union"
A lawmaker who retires at 60 after just 12 years in office can count on receiving an immediate pension of $25,000 a year and lifetime benefits that could total more than $800,000.
That doesn't include 401(k) benefits. And any member who lasts five years in office also can get taxpayer-subsidized health care until he or she reaches Medicare age.
Congressional pensions tend to be far more generous than those offered in the private sector. Benefits start earlier and -- unlike most private pension plans promising a fixed monthly payment based on years worked and pay -- come with annual cost-of-living increases. They also accrue a third faster than the average plan offered by private companies.
This isn't even including all they get while they're in office, or all the illegal (or what should be illegal) perks they get. I mean, c'mon!
They are supposed to be serving their country and their fellow Americans, not getting set for life!!!
And this part's just gross!
It doesn't matter what a lawmaker does before or after leaving office. Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who was sentenced to eight years and four months in jail after pleading guilty to bribery charges this year, is still entitled to an annual pension of about $36,000 for his 15 years in the House. That doesn't include his military pension or 401(k) benefits.
Yet, these same "representatives" have no problem screwingng over their fellow Americans instead of protecting them, as they took an oath to do.
"I don't think that many people in Congress would be quite so indifferent to the demise of the defined-benefit plan if they didn't have such a robust plan themselves," said James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, which represents companies with pension plans.
Congress is now working on pension legislation aimed at shoring up the defined-benefit plans available to some 44 million employees and retirees, but there's no stopping the trend of companies shrinking their plans or not letting new hires join them.
Now, the question is why our representatives have such "healthy" benefits packages at the expense of we, the taxpayers? Surprisingly enough, the answer isn't because they just love to screw us over, though I suspect that's part of it.
The retirement plan, it said, "would contribute to independence of thought and action (and be) an inducement for retirement for those of retiring age or with other infirmities."
"Sixty years of results have shown that experiment to be an utter failure," commented Peter Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union. The average age of senators in the current Congress is 60.4 years, the oldest in history, according to the CRS. The average age of House members is 55 years, also probably the oldest ever, the CRS said.
Well, at least one man saw the flaw:
One lawmaker who won't be getting the benefits is Rep. Howard Coble (news, bio, voting record), R-N.C., who since his election in 1984 has declined participation in either the pension or the thrift savings plan and has tried, without success, to eliminate or scale them back.
"He thought taxpayers should not have to subsidize retirement programs for people who run for public office," said his spokesman, Ed McDonald. But he's "given up on trying to reform the system."
Too bad he's given up.
Members of Congress also participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program or FEHB, which covers some 8 million federal workers. The FEHB is lauded as a model for a large-scale comprehensive health care plan, and lawmakers are frequently criticized for failing to come up with a comparable system for the tens of millions of Americans without adequate health care.
The key ingredient of the FEHB, said Robert Moffit, director of health policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, is "the government doesn't force you into some kind of straitjacket."
Hmm. Must be nice.
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