Is Congress really going to take on a congressional perk?

Prediction: The following bill would have near-universal public support. From The Hill:

While vast numbers of the private-sector workforce have seen their pensions vanish over recent decades and find themselves with precarious, market-based 401(k) plans, members of Congress receive both a pension and a quality employer-match plan.

According to at least two lawmakers, it’s time for elected officials to join the real world.

“If you compare the private sector to what the folks in the federal government get, in the federal government you not only get healthcare benefits, you get a 401(k) that has a higher match than most private-sector companies,” Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) told The Hill.

“Then on top of that you get the pension,” Griffin said. “Most private-sector folks don’t get a pension.”

In an effort both to identify cost savings amid the nation’s growing debt crisis and to give federal lawmakers more credibility in addressing related financial issues, Griffin and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have recently introduced separate proposals for the elimination of pension benefits for members of Congress.

In mid-November, Griffin put forward legislation terminating congressional pensions for future elected officials. Two months earlier, Coffman introduced stricter legislation to eliminate lawmakers’ pensions.

I’ll believe this is more than political posturing when I see a bill actually become law — especially if said law applies to current members going forward, not just future ones. That said, I guess it’s a good sign of sorts that some pols believe there’s value in posturing this way. And a more solid reason for hope that this is part of a serious effort to fix the nation’s finances, not just score political points, comes later in the story:

Cutting member pensions and relying instead on the Thrift Savings Plan represents a savings of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. But, Griffin pointed out, that amount is just a drop in the bucket compared with the hundreds of billions that could be saved by eliminating pension benefits across the federal government.

“This for me is less about the money you save and it’s more about being credible when we take on the bigger issue of civil service pensions, because that is where the real money is,” Griffin explained.

More broadly, these kinds of efforts — again, if they are actually successful — represent perhaps a better option than term limits to curb political careerism. Make their retirement benefits more like those in the real world. Subject them to the same kind of insider trading laws imposed on people in the real world. Keep going in that vein, and maybe staying in Washington for decades won’t be so much more appealing than returning to the real world.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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195 comments Add your comment

Voice of Reason

November 30th, 2011
11:54 am

Voice of Reason

November 30th, 2011
11:55 am

Ok. I always thought the “first” thing was lame, but it’s actually kind of satisfying.

On the article itself: Agreed. It would be a good thing, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

carlosgvv

November 30th, 2011
12:07 pm

Since the Republicans are the party of the rich, this is definitely just political posturing and will absolutely and positively never happen. You see, most of them are rich too.

Kyle Wingfield

November 30th, 2011
12:09 pm

carlosgvv: If they’re all rich, why do they care about getting a congressional pension?

a dad

November 30th, 2011
12:16 pm

Kyle – why do the rich care about getting a pension? Cause it’s more money. I’ll beleive they’re serious about giving up their perks when I see airborne swine. What really irks me those is our servicemen only get 50% of their pay, and they get shot at. What’s the worse thing on the Hill? Maybe a TV conference with their fly open behind the podium. Or an “oops” moment.

Jimmy62

November 30th, 2011
12:20 pm

carlosgv: And since the Dems are the party of dishonesty and have tricked you in to thinking they care about you, they won’t even bring this sort of thing up because they have no interest in in fixing anything but their own bank accounts. Something like this is FAR more likely to actually happen when someone submits a bill about it than when they don’t. Sorry you won’t give the GOP credit for something the Democrats will never do in a million years. Someone is hyperpartisan.

arnold

November 30th, 2011
12:25 pm

“Kyle Wingfield

November 30th, 2011
12:09 pm

carlosgvv: If they’re all rich, why do they care about getting a congressional pension?”

More, more more. The whole thing is an ego trip.

PeachPassPower

November 30th, 2011
12:27 pm

But how are Congress and the Government going to retain the best and the brightest if their compensation package isn’t competitive??? Oh wait . . .

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
12:32 pm

Kyle…..because Carlos believes if you make $100k per year that you are rich! haha.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
12:34 pm

Hey Carlos….Obama IS rich. Do you consider him evil as well? Great job!

Hootinanny Yum Yum

November 30th, 2011
12:46 pm

Carlosgvv writes: “Since the Republicans are the party of the rich, this is definitely just political posturing and will absolutely and positively never happen. You see, most of them are rich too.”

Carlosgvv, your comment illustrates the ignorance of many on the Left who believe everything they are spoon fed by liberal handlers and the media.

Not sure if Kyle allows links, but do us a favor and Google “congressional millionaires list 2011″. The top two returns are somewhat eye opening.

The first, from OpenSecrets.org, states that of the top 20 richest members of Congress are split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. The second, from NPR, states that of the top 13 richest members of Congress, 9 are DEMOCRATS.

Continue to drink the Kool-Aid my friend.

very xmas

November 30th, 2011
12:49 pm

and I think the “first” thing proves you’re all GOPeetards and morons.

commoncents

November 30th, 2011
12:49 pm

I’d like to see this. I’d also like to see representatives elected for actual terms, not a career.

Jefferson

November 30th, 2011
12:51 pm

You have to offer perks to get quality people… :)

Hillbilly D

November 30th, 2011
12:52 pm

I’ll believe this is more than political posturing when I see a bill actually become law

Me, too. On the slim chance that it does become law, you can be sure it’ll have loopholes written in the fine print, to make sure that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Hillbilly D

November 30th, 2011
12:56 pm

because Carlos believes if you make $100k per year that you are rich!

Agreed that $100k a year doesn’t usually make one filthy rich but it is about 3 times the income of the average Georgian.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 30th, 2011
12:59 pm

carlosgvv: Republicans are the party of the rich
———-

Guess you missed the story this week about who Obozo sees as his base–the rich and the parasites. To hell with the working and middle class.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:05 pm

Hillbilly, that may be true but again it certainly does not make you rich.

Jefferson

November 30th, 2011
1:08 pm

100k is well off, don’t fool yourself.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:12 pm

Jefferson….”well off”. It is a nice job but again it is not rich and many would not consider “well off” either.

williebkind

November 30th, 2011
1:18 pm

I want to see the insider trading rule voided for congress too!

Ross Perot

November 30th, 2011
1:22 pm

Hmm they make 100k a year and retire millionaires. Are they printing their own money too?

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:24 pm

Ross Perot…..are you referring to the president?

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:25 pm

Ross Perot….Hey Genius! Did I ever say they made $100k.

Bart Abel

November 30th, 2011
1:27 pm

Make their retirement benefits more like those in the real world.

I have a better idea. How about making private “real world” pension benefits more like those in government?

Such pensions were common in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, before those running large corporations decided that their number one priority was to maximize upper management’s income (as opposed to maximizing shareholder wealth). As an example, my father left Honeywell in 1975 to start his own business. Nevertheless, 30 years after leaving Honeywell, they started paying him the pension he earned during his 14 years of employment with them.

Note that Honeywell is a private company, and before private companies paid their CEOs hundreds of times more than the average worker, they were able to afford competitive pensions for their workers while still maximizing shareholder value.

We don’t have a deficit problem in this country. We have a distribution problem. Most of the wealth is accumulating to those at the top, unearned, and Kyle’s answer is consistently to make the poor and middle class battle it out for the scraps.

http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_snapshots_20060621/

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:31 pm

Bart…..”a distribution problem” spoken like a true Marxist. Great job. “unearned” that is even better. That is right. Those evil CEO’s at the top do nothing all day and are paid millions! Evil Evil Evil…..HAHAHAHAHA!

Bart Abel

November 30th, 2011
1:36 pm

For UGA1999

“…Richard Fuld, became the poster boy for Wall Street greed today as he defended the $484 million he received in salary, bonuses and stock options since 2000….Congressman Waxman also cited a request submitted to Lehman’s compensation committee four days before the firm filed for bankruptcy. The request, he said, recommended that the board give three departing executives over $20 million in special payments. ”

abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5965360&page=1#.TtZ29FZVUQo

sailfish

November 30th, 2011
1:36 pm

**hundreds of billions that could be saved by eliminating pension benefits across the federal government.

Great thinking going on there; let’s just have millions of old geezers become paupers. If the goal is to move backwards, I’d say the republicans are champions of that race.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:37 pm

Bart….your point?

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:38 pm

Sailfish…..you do realize he gap between the classes has grown larger with Obama in office right? You do realize that Obama is “rich” right?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 30th, 2011
1:41 pm

There’s no such thing as “unearned income”. Except for where government is involved, income happens in a mutually-agreed-upon exchange of money for some product, service, or other thing of value.

Bart Abel

November 30th, 2011
1:42 pm

Some more about UGA1999’s hard working executives…

“Mr. Cayne, who has also used bridge to help recruit clients, considers tournaments a welcome break, say people who’ve spent time with him at the events. He has played in at least three so far this year, staying from a few days to over a week at each.

Attendees say Mr. Cayne has sometimes smoked marijuana at the end of the day during bridge tournaments…

About this time, Mr. Cayne began his summertime ritual of taking a helicopter from New York City to Deal, N.J., on Thursdays to make a late-afternoon golf game at the exclusive Hollywood Golf Club, associates say. (He pays for the 17-minute, $1,700 trips himself, one person says.) After spending the night in his vacation home nearby, associates add, Mr. Cayne generally hits the golf course again Friday morning for another 18 holes,…

The following day, a Saturday, Mr. Cayne scored a respectable 88 at the Hollywood golf course, according to the golf Web site. But for Bear, things seemed to be falling apart that weekend.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119387369474078336.html

Dumb and Dumber

November 30th, 2011
1:45 pm

The two GOP Congressmen know full well that neither the Republicans or Democrats in the House and Senate will ever pass any bill limiting their retirement bennies and perks. Its all posturing so they can claim to their constituents that they are “doing something” ….

You can find lots of examples where Reps and Dems made fortunes while in Congress (hullo, y’all miss the news on Congressional Insider Trading recently? Lots of dirty hands on both side of the aisle on that stinker). And then we have Charlie Ranngel (D – NY) who is almost in a class by himself, except not really. Former House Speaker Dennis Haster (R – Ill) made a fortune while in the House and he did it without falling asleep poolside at a luxury resort in Hawaii while on a lobbyist junket (that pic still gets air-time on Jon Stewart’s show) — look what you can find with a simple web search:

“Prior to his two-decade long career as a congressman, Hastert was a high school teacher in Chicago with a modest family income. Yet, somehow, he managed to become a multi-millionaire while in Congress: his financial net worth went from less than $270,000 in 1986 to an estimated $4 million to $17 million. No, this was not due to a rich wife or a sudden inheritance, nor was it due to winning a lottery….”

And Tea Party/GOP Congressman Andy Harris from Maryland famously whined about having to wait 30 days for gubmint supplied health care when taking office back in 2010. Clearly he is only against gubmint supplied health care for other folks, not him or his staff.

Partisanship is an IQ test, if you still believe that the Democrats or Republicans care about anything except getting political power, you failed.

OK, resume your name-calling.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:45 pm

bart….still waiting on your point. Not cut and past comments from someone else.

Kyle Wingfield

November 30th, 2011
1:47 pm

And Bart’s answer is consistently to point to received wisdom that lacks the benefit of being factual.

Let’s take Honeywell, since you mentioned it. In 2008, its CEO ranked No. 9 on Forbes’ list of the largest CEO paychecks, with total compensation of $28.7 million — a lofty ranking and a lot of dough, to be sure. Of this, $17.5 million was a bonus tied directly to the company’s performance. But let’s ignore that and act as if $28.7 million were the going rate for a Honeywell CEO.

Also in 2008, Honeywell had 122,000 employees. Now, let’s assume that Honeywell’s board decided that, to provide a good pension for all of its employees, it would reduce the CEO’s salary by 99 percent, to $287,000 a year, and put the rest of the money ($28.4 million) into a pension plan. That would come out to…

…drumroll, please…

…a little less than $233 per employee.

Do you have another “answer” for the decline in private-sector pensions, Bart? Maybe one that involves longer life expectancies after retirement age or increasing global competition?

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:49 pm

Kyle….nice.

Bart Abel

November 30th, 2011
1:50 pm

I made my point at 1:27, UGA1999…no cutting and pasting. Since you rely exclusively on talk radio and Fox News for your misinformation, I thought I’d dig up a little backup to help you understand the point I made.

Puck

November 30th, 2011
1:50 pm

Funny that pensions are still popular in the upper echelons of many private sector companies. It is also interesting that those “precarious, market-based 401(k) plans” are what people like Kyle want to replace social security with.

sailfish

November 30th, 2011
1:52 pm

uga1999

So, what’s your point? Isn’t obama the guy who wants to tax millionaires & billionaires a few points more because, drum roll please…..they are wealthy and can afford it? without putting nary a dent in their bentley.

Chuck Doberman

November 30th, 2011
1:55 pm

The goal has already been stated; give up congressional pensions so they may then proceed to abolish all federal pensions. It’s foresight on the part of these two congressman as it will be tough to sell that plan if they are still collecting. It’s a good move toward removing any/all major benefits that federal workers presently get cuz “that’s where the real money is”. Let’s face it, the vast majority of pols leave office far better off than they were when they came in. Even without the federal pension most will probably do just fine when they retire, so the sacrifice, while painful (and it will be painful for them to give up some of their holy trinity of money, power and influence even though it probably will not change their lives much… it’s the principle) is relatively minimal. Everyday federal workers, on the other hand, will very likely lose most or all of their retirement nestegg if this agenda is successful. These are the cuts the GOP wants

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:55 pm

Bart, actually no you didnt. You posted some articles with someone elses points. Did I say a word about “talk radio” or “Fox News”….more of your intelligent guessing I assume?

So do you believe that CEO’s make up their own salary?

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
1:57 pm

sailfish…..”So, what’s your point? Isn’t obama the guy who wants to tax millionaires & billionaires a few points more because, drum roll please…..they are wealthy and can afford it?”

REALLY? Is that why Obama kept the Bush tax code that kept taxes lowered for the upper class?

How much do you feel the top 1% “should” pay in taxes? Is the current 51% not enough?

Also, you do realize you could go out and start a company, become a CEO and buy your own Bentley too dont you?

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
2:01 pm

Sailfish….here is another question for you?

Ok, lets assume that we raise taxes on the wealthy….but in order to keep the company profitable he has to shed 3% of of his workforce. Was it worth it?

Bart Abel

November 30th, 2011
2:07 pm

Your math, Kyle, assumes that CEO pay is the only source of pension contributions (I certainly didn’t mean to imply that.) Of course, it’s not. But by highlighting Honeywell’s CEO pay, you supported my point.

In fact, my old man collects somewhere in the neighborhood of $233 per month from Honeywell (between $200 and $250). Again, that was for 14 years of employment with 30 years between the time he left and the time he began collecting.

They obviously got the money somewhere. And when such pensions are disappearing as Honeywell’s CEO pay is dramatically increasing, we see where some of the pension money went, your back-of-the-envelope arithmetic notwithstanding.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
2:15 pm

Kyle….Bart just doesnt get it. They never do.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

November 30th, 2011
2:18 pm

Did anyone put a gun to Honeywell employees’ heads and force them to accept those horrible, low paid, poorly benefitted jobs?

Didn’t think so.

sailfish

November 30th, 2011
2:21 pm

uga

You’re question is a non starter, we are talking about raising taxes on personal income – they can afford it.

UGA1999

November 30th, 2011
2:23 pm

Sailfish….Dont you realize that all comes out of the same bucket?? ESPECIALLY for small businesses and medium businesses.

Bart Abel

November 30th, 2011
2:23 pm

Incidentally, Kyle, CEOs aren’t the only members of upper management who receive ridiculous amounts of compensation–just shining a light on them since they symbolize what’s happening across the board in the upper ranks. You’ll find a little additional sources of potential pension contributions for the rank and file if you run the numbers for the members of the board, CEO, COO, CFO,…Executive VPs of this and that,…

Again, not the only sources, but it helps the cause.

(The CEO of Costco makes too much to, compared to the rank and file, but relative to CEOs of organizations with similar performance, he helps demonstrate what’s possible: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=12397054#.TtaB3VZVUQo)

sailfish

November 30th, 2011
2:24 pm

uga

If my icome zooms upward, I have no problem paying more in taxes, I’m still making more money.