To start the year with the appropriate bang, we propose ending pensions for Congress. Immediately. Being a Member of Congress was not intended to become a way of life, and the idea of a “professional politician” is one that stinks like…well like over-ripened sauerkraut at New Year’s. It’s time we gave professional politicians an incentive to shorten their stays in America’s legislative body, and take some time out of their busy schedules of campaigning, fund raising, and passing bad laws in order to live under the laws that they’ve created.According to the Congressional Research Service, taxpayers are footing pension bills for some 495 retired members of Congress. If you actually want to read up on how Congressional pensions are calculated, good luck. The report we’ve linked you to above takes about 20 pages to go through the various options, permutations, and categories of pension benefits. Of course a pension benefit is impossible to calculate to an exact figure. This depends on each recipients years in office, their salary while there, which retirement system they paid into, and how long they plan to live after leaving office.
As of 2011, the annual estimated bill for these retired Congress critters is some $28,282,440 per year. This is an annual pension payment. By our reckoning it doesn’t include retirement matching funds paid by taxpayers into individual retirement accounts during a member’s term of office (called a “Thrift Savings Plan”), does not include health benefits paid by taxpayers via the Federal Employee Health Benefit plan, and does not include pension death benefits that are paid to surviving spouses of deceased congressmen and senators. All that to say: the $28.2 million price tag we apply to this proposal is probably a low-ball number.
Eliminating an unnecessary pension expense frees taxpayers from the financial burden of paying congressmen and women for the less than lusterful work they perform. But more importantly, if the idea succeeds in encouraging politicians to leave office before they become too entrenched in the culture of Washington waste, this has the potential to save much more than the sum of the pension checks. Imagine if some questionable laws would be passed if congressmen had to go home and actually live under the laws they passed. Would they still write multi-thousand page laws that leave still more thousands of pages of regulations to be written and imposed on business owners and citizens?
For our first proposal, we estimate a conservative savings of $28,282,440 to the taxpayer. Not a bad way to start the year!
Photo Credit: bclinesmith