3 April 2005 at 12:00:00 AM
Politicians have guaranteed retirement plans and have made no changes to the plan since 1983. How good are these pensions?
Lawmakers who left Congress last January are receiving pensions ranging from as little as $14,165 a year for six years' service to as much as $114,102 a year for more than 30 years' service.
Inflation-adjusted pensions based upon the highest three years of salary are available to lawmakers as early as age 50 with 20 years' service. Lawmakers with less service qualify for full pension benefits starting at age 62. The retirement package includes automatic inflation adjustments and guaranteed access to post-retirement private medical insurance in addition to Medicare protection provided all Americans.
Barely 20 percent of the American workforce has pensions comparable to congressional pensions, according to the independent Employee Benefit Research Institute. Almost no one in the private sector has the kind of cost-of-living escalators that keep Capitol Hill pensions moving upward.
That's a seriously low percentage of Americans who would enjoy having pensions anywhere near the ballpark of what congress pays themselves.
Even though pensions for retired members of Congress and staffers represent only a tiny fraction of annual federal spending, Congress has taken care to bury the numbers in the federal budget.
"Congress writes the laws and gets to choose whether the cost is made public," said Ruskin. "It's always been treated like a state secret."
The result is that independent analysts are forced to estimate lawmakers' hypothetical pension benefits without specific information about a particular lawmaker's participation in the pension plan or contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan
We believe that Congress ought to have the same general benefits of those who they govern, rather than having a better standard of benefits and pensions, which they seek to cut for others. As the article further points out:
With so many private corporations trimming benefits for newly hired or younger workers, Salisbury predicts a widening gulf between congressional and private sector benefits as Congress protects its own package of benefits.
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