Saturday, February 7, 2009

While our legislators are whacking away at corporate greed...

... leave us not forget the cushy pension deal they've crafted for themselves.

For purposes of reference, please realize that if you pay the maximum Social Security tax for 30 years, the government says you will start with a maximum annual benefit of $25,440. If you happen to be under 65, and then earn more than $1,800 a month, you will lose $1 in benefits for every $2 you earn (a 50% marginal tax rate).

This is from that notorious libertarian, neo-con source: CNNMoney:

Members are eligible to start collecting at age 62 if they have at least five years of service. If they have 20 years of service under their belt, they can retire at 50. With 25 years of service, they can retire any time.

What they get depends on a formula based on years of service and average pay(natch, right?).

So a congressman with 22 years of service and whose average salary for the top three years was $153,900 gets $84,645. A current congressman ending up with six years of service (it's two-year terms, after all) would get at least $16,503 (at age 62, of course).

In actuality, the average congressional pension payment ranges between $41,000 and $55,000, based on 2002 data from the Congressional Research Service.

Congresscritters and their staffs kick in 8% of their annual salary [on top of Social Security] for this benefit, which has in common with SSI that it doesn't pay for itself. We do:

These payments cover about one-fifth of the actual cost of their pension, according to the Taxpayers Union.

So Congress folk get a better pension and don't have to pay for all of it. They also have the equivalent of a 401k program (complete with a 5 percent employer match). In some cases Social Security kicks in. And given their medical, dental and travel benefits, plus expenses paid by the office, members of Congress have plenty of opportunity to save for retirement. (And if they get into trouble, as they sometimes do, the pension often isn't up for grabs). At $165,200 a year (after their raise this month), seems like they have some money to do it with too.

That's right: get elected to Congress at least three times (or, just make it through one full term as a Senator) and at age 62 you are eligible to collect not only Social Security, but also a legislative pension that can be nearly four times the size of the largest SSI payout, with no earning restrictions.

And Congressional contributions pay for only 20% of their own benefits....

So when we're talking about transparency and accountability for folks who take Federal tax dollars, let's keep in mind that all of these pontificating bastards and bastardettes have either voted themselves into (hello, Joe Biden) or happily ensconced themselves (hello, Ted Kauffman) in a system that provides them healthy retirement benefits 80% underwritten by Federal tax dollars.

But--strangely--this issue never seems to come up....

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