Our pampered Congress: Kill FERS
By The Tribune-Review
Published: Monday, March 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Just how self-serving and disconnected from everyday economic reality is your Congress (now enjoying a paid two-week Passover/Easter)? Consider the vast gulf between its lavish retirement package and that of the typical private-sector worker.
Citing a recent Congressional Research Service study and Employee Benefits Research Institute information, CNBC reports that while families struggle and defined-contribution 401(k) plans dominate in the private sector, the deal for lawmakers is far sweeter — even compared to other federal employees'.
Besides Social Security and a 401(k), Congress has the old-style, defined-benefit Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS). It's paying 215 former members, who average 16 years of service, pensions averaging $39,576 annually — about what the fewer than 15 percent of private-sector workers still on such plans in 2010 could expect in their entire retirement.
Lawmakers excluded themselves when they raised FERS contributions last year. And FERS benefits' value grows faster for elected employees, so they get higher-percentage FERS payouts than other federal workers with comparable service.
Private-sector experience shows FERS-style defined-benefit plans aren't sustainable. And Congress' extra perks add insult to FERS' taxpayer injury.
Two House members from Colorado have a bipartisan bill to end FERS. A Congress that truly serves taxpayer interests, not its own, would have taken that step — and done away with its own special retirement treatment — long ago.
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