I am getting dopey emails again from otherwise intelligent people saying things like Nancy Pelosi is going to retire from Congress with an annual pension payment north of 800 grand for life, based on adding together her annual salaries first as a congressperson, then majority leader, then speaker. This nonsense is being purveyed by a dim bulb who calls himself Sir John Gravely.
Any sixth grader can tell you that standard pension benefits are always based on a percentage of a few years of the highest salary the person earns – and after extensive years of service. You do not just add together the salaries of different jobs and say that is the pension, as the apparently gravely mentally ill Sir John asserts on his website (http://ukoa.net).
Sir John, doubtfully his or her real name, also whines about the president getting $180,000 for life after serving his eight years as the leader of the biggest, most powerful nation on Earth. Actually, Sir John undersold that figure. It is probably closer to $200,000 a year – about half the president’s current salary. But really, do we want our ex-presidents working the night shift at Seven-Eleven to make ends meet after they leave office?
So what is Sir John’s point, other than the one on the top of his head? Hard to say.
Anyone interested in a few facts?
Well, for those of you who are not allergic to facts, consider this:
Before 1984, members of congress were not covered under Social Security. They, along with other federal employees were covered under the separate Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), similar to private industry pension plans. After 1984, new members were required to participate in Social Security. A few years later, Congress enacted a new federal retirement plan, the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), which coordinates its benefits with Social Security.
Depending on when a member was elected, he or she chooses from one of more combinations of pension benefits. Those options were narrowed further for those elected after 2003. Whichever the option, they are decent retirement packages, again similar to those offered by private industry for middle and upper management types before the economic meltdown. But they are nothing like what Sir John suggests.
According to Congressional Research Service Income Security Analyst Katelin Isaacs, in her Nov. 30, 2012, report, “Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress,” writes:
“Congressional pensions, like those of other federal employees, are financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. All Members pay Social Security payroll taxes equal to 6.2% of the Social Security taxable wage base ($113,700 in 2013). Members enrolled in FERS and elected prior to 2013 also pay 1.3% of full salary to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF). Members of Congress first elected after 2012 and enrolled in FERS contribute 3.1% of pay to the CSRDF in addition to their Social Security contributions. In 2013, Members covered by CSRS Offset pay 1.8% of the first $113,700 of salary, and 8.0% of salary above this amount, into the CSRDF.
“Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.”
That would be $178,888 for Pelosi if she were able to max out the system – nothing to shake a stick at (I could get by on half that), but nowhere near the delusional Sir John’s $803,700 – off by a factor of 4.5.
“As of October 1, 2011, 495 retired Members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service,” Ms. Isaacs reports. “Of this number, 280 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $70,620. A total of 215 Members had retired with service under FERS and were receiving an average annual pension of $39,576 in 2011.”
Methinks Sir John is Gravely ill.
Writer and novelist Richard J. Schneider studies and writes about government. His latest mystery novel, set in Colorado, is WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation.