It’s an odd question. One we have never heard asked, nor discussed. It came to us as we were researching a completely different issue. Do you know the answer?
Did you know, as an example, that Rep. Maurice Hinchey of the 22nd Congressional District of New York recieves $35,000/yr in a pension (from the NY State Assembly since 1993) on top of his $174,000 annual salary as a member of Congress. That’s an annual income of $209,000 compared to a constituent average income base of $25,665 (1999). The pension alone is more than the average income for voters he represents.
That strikes us as odd. The numbers just don’t feel right. Not that we would want to limit the ability to earn a living – but many Democrats in Congress do want to limit the income of some. Rep. Maurice Hinchey is among them – he voted against the Bush Tax Cut compromise.
But when we consider the current fiscal irresponsibility of Congress, as the national deficit proves, we wonder just how much taxpayer money might be saved if members of Congress postponed (we would not want to deny anyone a benefit they earned and have been guaranteed) their receipt of pension payments. Considering that members of Congress earn 3.5x the average Americans salary ($49,777), delaying a pension hardly constitutes hardship. Especially with 9.8% of the national population unemployed and 14.8% underemployed in just New York alone.
Would the total income saved amount to even as much as some of the earmarks proposed by politicians? Well the $3,654,000 in an earmark for the Center for Grape Genetics that Rep. Hinchey requested is a lot to cover. The $500,000 Village of Owego Riverwalk (population 3,911) is far more reachable. The $30,000 Woodstock Film Festival Youth Initiative is definitely covered by Rep. Hinchey’s pension.
More importantly, for an Administration and Congress that is obsessed with “saved” jobs and success of a stimulus plan that has failed every objective it was designed and promised to hit, the mere appearence of trying to do something fiscally responsible would be a nice change of pace.
We don’t mean to pick on Rep. Maurice Hinchey, alone. We believe that ANY politician that is gainfully employed in service to the pubic and receiving taxpayer salary should not also be collecting a taxpayer funded pension.
The fact that New York is underwater with it’s budget, that the State is losing population and businesses, that 14.8% of the population is underemployed, and that the State is increasing taxes (on the local and State levels) via the most restrictive (ie sugar and salt taxes) and confusing manner (clothing tax is permanent, then removed, then scheduled to return at half the initial rate) just begs for a politician receiving a taxpayer pension to do the right thing and delay or deny the pension. At least until they are no longer a public servant (which is a definition of a member of Congress).
No matter how many members of Congress are receiving a taxpayer funded pension as they actively work, the total (which we are working on finding out) is still too high at even 1, in our opinion.