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