Your congressman’s padded pension, Part II 

Don’t feel bad for Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. It’s true that political reality is forcing him to give up his 30-year job. Yes, he will be losing the staff he gets now at taxpayer expense, the free parking on Capitol Hill and the alleged special treatment by mortgage companies.

But at least Dodd has his pension coming to him. After six years in the U.S. House and 30 in the Senate, he will have roughly $126,000 coming to him annually by the time he leaves office early next year (after a spousal deduction), with annual cost-of-living adjustments pushing that number up year after year, well into the future.

Dodd, still a relatively young man for the Senate, turns 66 this year. Wishing him good health and assuming he has another 30 years of life, taxpayers will have paid him at least $5 million before he goes to his eternal reward — although that could easily come to $6 million or more, depending on the official estimates for the cost of living. Unless his wife has voluntarily opted out, checks will continue to go to her after he passes away. She has yet to turn 50.

That’s public service — members of the public will work and pay taxes to serve Dodd. By way of comparison, a 2007 study by the Employment Benefits Research Institute found that the 401(k) of the average American worker in their 60s, after 30 years of work, contains a bit more than $200,000. That was before the stock market’s current downturn.

There’s no particular reason to pick on Dodd except that he happens to be retiring. Like other members elected before 1984, he gets a very generous, guaranteed retirement benefit for life (which, in the case of married members, is reduced to pay for a surviving spouse well into the future).

Congressmen elected since 1984 still get a great deal. Those who have served at least five years get the regular working man’s 401(k)-style plan, with matching contributions, plus a smaller guaranteed check for life. The longest-serving members of this group — younger legislative veterans such as retiring Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn. — are eligible to receive nearly $60,000 per year if they are married, plus distributions from their retirement accounts, plus spousal survivor benefits after they die.

And for members convicted of corruption offenses that took place prior to September 2007 — such as former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. — they get their pensions anyway.

Not surprising, there’s little opposition to these excessive benefits within Congress — but there’s some.

“I have refused to participate in the congressional pension program,” Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., announces on his Web site, referring to the program as “a taxpayer rip-off” and an “abuse of the taxpayers.”

But Coble’s early efforts to do something about it gained little traction among the 535 fortunate, future congressional pensioners. “He realized he was beating his head against a brick wall,” Coble’s spokesman told me this week. Coble and Ron Paul, R-Tex., might be the only current members of Congress who refuse to participate in the program.

As for the rest, they can’t wait for “public service” to start working for them, too.

About The Author

David Freddoso

Bio:
David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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