Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Walking the Walk

States and municipalities are talking up government employee pension “reform.”  Basically, their argument is that they were stupid and hoodwinked by evil, liberal government employee unions; and, in any event, they can’t afford to pay the generous benefits anymore.

From a 2007 report by the Congressional Research Service (a government entity):

“Under both CSRS and FERS [the two federal pension plans], Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.”

Senators and Representatives make $174,000.00 a year (leadership makes a bit more).  80% of that is $139,200.00.  Not a bad Social Security supplement at 62 if you can get elected once as a Senator or three times as a Representative.  Even better at 50 for a Senator that’s been elected four times or a Representative winning ten times.

Did I mention they get full health benefits for life; and, that since 1984, they also get Social Security?

The Dems and the GOP are sniping at each other about Obama’s proposed 2011 federal budget.  I haven’t heard any of them propose cutting of their own retirement benefits.  Yes, the savings would be a drop in the ocean, not just a bucket, of debt.  Totally symbolic, just like cutting the federal home heating oil subsidy for poor people in half (about $2.5 billion) as Obama has proposed or the $500 million the GOP wants to save by defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

1 comment:

The Curmudgeon said...

I don't think I'm big on symbolic gestures. It doesn't do hardly anything to the deficit, which is why it's largely symbolic.

On the other hand, I believe firmly in the ideal of the citizen-legislator, someone who isn't a career politician and does not yearn to pass the seat down to his or her children.

To get rid of these, I'd like to eliminate all outside curbs on the income a member of Congress can earn. That would do more to promote turnover in office than anything short of term limits (or drawing non-gerrymandered districts... and, of course, that's never going to happen).

In that case, I say cut the pension to zero. And you might even have members with enough guts to do it.