Maureen Groppe and Paul Barton have an article about Congressional pensions. Long time lawmakers Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Dan Burton will be getting pensions with the fairly eye-popping numbers of $125,000 and $117,000, respectively. These numbers are big if you go with the political fiction that these are just ordinary schmoes doing an ordinary job, and nobody I know gets a pension like that. (Nobody I know gets a pension anymore — no move to a defined contribution plan?) But, if you go the other route, and look at these folks as being more like senior vice-presidents of a $2.7 trillion company, then their benefit package is fairly small.
I get it: why should we suffering taxpayers have to pay so that these public servants can live better than we do? One rationale is that, if we don’t, then companies well-positioned to exploit their lawmaking powers will. A lawmaker will have a choice between playing ball and, when he leaves office, being taken care of by lucrative, easy private sector jobs or, standing up for the public interest and, once bounced out of office, unemployed with no obvious source of income. The public will never be in a position to offer benefits packages that are anywhere near as lucrative as those that can be offered by big businesses with an interest in having the government look the other way or providing big subsidies. But, with a house payment and basic needs taken care of, a Congressperson at least has a solid option of taking the high ground.
Still and all, it grates to see that a guy like Mike Pence – who hasn’t done a damn thing in eleven years – is entitled to $32,000 per year once he turns 62.