Posted: 1:00 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2013
(Image source: The New York Times)
BY ZACH TOOMBS
It’s been called double dipping, and it’s a much-criticized, but legal, way U.S. lawmakers are collecting retirement pensions — on top of their taxpayer-funded salaries.
This week’s National Journal Magazine cover story examines this often overlooked practice that threatens to turn public opinion against Congress even further.
The long list of lawmakers benefitting, about 90 members from both chambers, spans Democrats and Republicans, from the poorest to the richest. The second-wealthiest lawmaker to draw from pensions is Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She’s received $850,000 in retirement benefits from her previous government jobs since joining the Senate. (Via YouTube, CNN)
Some, like Texas Republican John Cornyn, drew multiple pensions. From his time as a district, then state judge and then as state attorney general, he collected $65,000 in pension funds. (Via C-SPAN)
Shane Goldmacher who wrote this week’s cover story says the practice has angered government watchdog groups.
GOLDMACHER: “The issue is largely symbolic. These are people who are in leadership positions, and the question is: should they be allowed to collect a public pension in addition to their public salary. Taxpayer groups and some conservative groups say ‘no,’ that that’s double dipping and you shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”
And, in tough economic times, it’s enough to drive public approval of Congress, already at about 12 percent, even lower. Lawmakers, who already receiving generous salaries, also collect 5-or-6-figure pensions. (Via History Channel)
That’s especially true because these lawmakers write the rules on government pensions themselves. So, when they boost retirement benefits at the state level and then move on to federal government, they win big.
In 2001, for example, state lawmakers in Pennsylvania increased their own pensions by 50 percent. Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach voted for it, and now he benefits from it. (Via YouTube / ccresumevideos)
Lawmakers in favor of the practice say they contributed to retirement benefits from their own paychecks. Ultimately though, they’ll have to make that case to their constituents. (Via The Wall Street Journal)