Politicians Live by Different Rules

I have written several articles on postings related to politicians. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these politicians.

Politicians simply have it better than do regular people. They get get pensions, where the vast majority of the population has to either invest in a 401K to receive a pension of sorts, or just live on Social Security benefits, out of which they have to pay for insurance. If you don’t believe me read the following: Congressional pension is a pension made available to members of the United States Congress. As of 2019, members who participated in the congressional pension system are vested after five (5) years of service. A full pension is available to members 62 years of age with 5 years of service; 50 years or older with 20 years of service; or 25 years of service at any age. A reduced pension is available depending upon which of several different age/service options is chosen. If Members leave Congress before reaching retirement age, they may leave their contributions behind and receive a deferred pension later. The current pension program, effective January 1987, is under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which covers members and other federal employees whose federal employment began in 1984 or later. This replaces the older Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) for most members of congress and federal employees. For each year of service, a member’s annual pension increases by about $2,000. So, after six years of service, the member has earned a pension of approximately $12,000, or 6.75% of salary ($174,000). Where can you work for just 5 years and get a pension? They also qualify for Social Security. You know why they have this plan, they voted for it. Can I tell my boss what I think my pension should be?

CONGRESS AND THE TAXPAYERS: A DOUBLE STANDARD ON HEALTH CARE REFORM? by Robert Moffit

INTRODUCTION

Millions of Americans may be anxious about the cost and long-term security of their job-related health benefits. And over 35 million Americans worry because they have no health insurance coverage at all. But not members of Congress, their staffs, and other federal employees. They enjoy special health care privileges that are denied to the rest of Americans.

Members of Congress and other federal jobholders can choose from among dozens of alternative health plans each year, irrespective of their families’ health condition. And when federal workers move to different jobs within the federal sector, they are able to keep the coverage of their chosen plan without any interruption of benefits. They can even keep their chosen plan when they retire. Few other Americans enjoy such health care security.

Congressmen, like other federal workers, understandably like their system. So much so, that buried in many of the leading bills to restructure the United States’ health care system, there are. provisions that quietly would exempt members of Congress, their staffs, and their dependents from each bill’s effect.

Among the bills that exempt members of Congress and other federal employees:

“The HealthAmerica Act,” S. 1227, sponsored by Senate Majority it Leader George Mitchell, the Maine Democrat. This bill would require employers either to provide private health insurance for their workers or to pay into a public health insurance plan called “Americare.” This is the principal so-called “play or pay” measure. A revised version of S. 1227 was approved this January 22 by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat.

“The Health Insurance and Cost Containment Act,” H.R. 3205, sponsored by Representative Dan Rostenkowski, the Illinois Democrat r ” who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would also set up a play or pay system.

“The Pepper Commission Health Care Access and Reform Act,” H.R. 2535, sponsored by Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. This bill too proposes to reform the system along the play or pay model. It is based on the September 1990 recommendations of the United States Bipartisan Commission on Comprehens- ive Health Care, named the Pepper Commission after its chief congressional sponsor and first chairman, the late Representative Claude Pepper of Florida.

“The Pepper Commission Health Care Access and Reform Act,” S. 1177, sponsored by Senator Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who chaired the Pepper Commission. This is the Senate companion to the Waxman bill. Unlike the Waxman bill, it does not specify the financing for the new health insurance system.

The “US Health Program Act,” H.R. 3535, sponsored by Representative Edward Roybal, the California Democrat. This bill combines elements of the play or pay approach with a single-payer system. Employers are required to enroll their workers in a “qualified employer health plan” or in the new US Health Program. The US Health Pro- gram would replace the current Medicare and Medicaid public insurance systems.

It is not hard to see why some members of Congress are trying to exempt them- selves from many of the very health care reform proposals that they want to impose on the rest of America. Members of Congress and their staffs currently are enrolled in a program known as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

This program, known as FEHBP, serves about nine million federal workers, retirees, and their families, including the President, the Vice President, the White House staff, cabinet secretaries, and federal judges.

For a full description of the program, see Robert E. Moffit, “Consumer Choice in Health: Leaming from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 878, February 6, 1992. This makes them the only Americans with a major health care program based on consumer choice within a system of market competition. While far from being a perfect system, FEHBP has many beneficial features absent from most existing private sector insurance plans. Examples:

Personal Choice. Most Americans are locked into “one-size-fits-all” com- pany-based health plans, with little or no personal choice over their health bene- fits. But members of Congress and their staffs enjoy a wide range of choices of plans, from traditional fee-for service plans, like the giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to smaller group plans sponsored by employee organizations, to less ex- pensive managed care options, such as geographically based health maintenance organizations WOs). 

  • Balancing Price and Benefits. Most Americans have no opportunity to de- cide what health insurance package gives the best value for money and best meets their needs and those of their families. They must take whatever plan-if any-is sponsored by their employer. Not members of Congress. Each year they can pick between competing plans, assessing the costs to themselves and their families and making judgments about quality and price. It is their decision. It is not the decision of a corporate benefits manager whose main concern is the company’s “bottom line.”
  • Portability. Most Americans risk losing health coverage altogether if they change jobs or are laid off, and virtually every job change forces a change in a family’s health plan. But in the federal system, workers can change jobs while keeping the same plan.  
  • Security in Retirement. Many private firms are cutting back on the health care coverage they promise to retirees, if they offer such coverage at all. And most Americans are unable to continue their private health insurance plan into their retirement years. Not members of Congress and their staffs. If they and other federal employees meet certain lenient eligibility conditions, they can continue their family plan at the same premium price into retirement, even if they are eligible to retire at 55. And, when a federal employee or retiree dies, their spouse continues to be covered. In certain cases, even former spouses are covered.  

So, where do I sign up? It keeps getting better. We have discussed so far, their unbelievable pension and health care plans, now we will discuss some of their other perks. They vote their own raises. The House Speaker makes $223,500, Majority and Minority Leaders earn $193,400, and the President Pro Tempore makes $193,400. Congressman have a base annual salary of $174,000. Admittedly, there should be some premium in pay for setting the laws and running the country as elected officials, but being a member of Congress includes a minimum annual salary which is more than three times higher than the average private-sector salary of $51,986 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Outside income is restricted to eliminate conflicts-of-interest. However, we found significant loopholes in the ethics laws. Who knew that powerful members can be employed by federal contractors based in their districts? For example, during a 13-year period, Vanderbilt University employed Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and paid him $250,000 in total salary (2005-2018). The university received $2.6 billion in federal contracts, grants, and direct payments from 2014-2018. The powerful congressman serves on the Budget Committee and on Oversight and Government Reform. Located in his district, Vanderbilt’s executives and employees are Cooper’s #1 campaign contributor ($135,261). If this is not enough, they can choose when they want to work and have unlimited sick days.

Here is a list of additional perks, they enjoy: (1) Free airport parking; (2) free on-site gym, plus beauty parlor; (3) Despite passing the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, perhaps known better as the STOCK Act in 2012, Congress gutted the primary disclosure component. While still making it difficult to make trades on inside information, this means they don’t have to publicly disclose their trades and potential insider knowledge. (4) They get 239 days off a year, this excludes sick days; (5)*they get to fly for free; (6) a $1.2 million dollar budget for Members of the House and up to $3.3 million dollar budget for Senate Members.

The number of terms Congress men/women can serve are unlimited. While governors and presidents have term limits. While it is true that politicians have to run for re-election every 2 or 6 years, and are supposedly accountable to their constituents, most voters just chose names they recognize or vote along party lines. So if your district is predominantly Republican or Democratic, you pretty much get a free pass. For example AOC and Pilosi’s districts are over 80% democrat. So, they really are not accountable to the public. You can see this in their behavior in the media. Pilosi ripped up President Trump’s State of the Union Address on public TV, with little or no consequences.

Our political system allows Lobbying. While it is true that Congressmen can’t accept money from them, they can accept gifts. Lobbyists can give gifts (from meals to clothing to rounds of golf) to members of Congress that are less than $50 in value. The total value of gifts given to one member cannot exceed $100 in a year. They may also make political donations. Lobbyists cannot give more than $5,000 to any political action committee per calendar year. They can, however, work on campaigns and serve as the treasurers of political action committees. To make our overworked politicians life easier, Lobbyists can and at times do write legislation, sometimes at the behest of a member of Congress or their staff. You can see where there may be reasons to worry about Lobbyists. Well you should be worried, these lobbyist have spent more than $525 million to influence the political process from 1998 to 2014. Do you think politicians pay attention to their lobbyists?

Congressional member misdeeds are monitored by internal oversight committees. This means they discipline themselves. Not to bad. After they serve a few terms, they are pretty much immune. Unless they get caught in the media doing something really bad, like eating babies or something. So people wonder where these crazy legislative bills come from. Now you know. Congress men/women live in a world totally alien to anything we can imagine. They have unbelievable wealth and power, or they will at least, after a few terms. Ask yourself how many politicians leave office as millionaires? President Obama, certainly did, Ditto with the Clinton’s.

My feeling is that these politicians that make daily life altering decisions for their constituents should live by the same rules. They should not get pensions, like the vast majority of the population, their health insurance should be the same. Their salaries should be inline with the average American. Eliminate all gifts from lobbyists. No more bill writing by lobbyists. No more free perks. Initiate Term limits. If these changes were made, you would see a Congress more answerable and accountable to the average American.

Any increasing trend that has been occurring, is the us by Mayors and governors private duty security and police to protect their houses and them personally. Lori Lightfoot the mayor of Chicago is the most recent one to do so. See sights death threats as the reason. These security details are being paid for by taxpayer dollars. She also just banned protesters from her city block. So it is okay for protesters to march in front of everyone else’s house or business, but not Lightfoot’s.

Addendum:

* Since 2005, members of Congress and their committee staffers have embarked on 16,367 trips. During this period, the top destinations were Israel, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and United Arab Emirates. In one year, the U.S. House spent $4.3 million on overseas travel. Committee staffers get approved for travel too. Three Appropriations Committee staffers flew to Mozambique and Malawi on a seven day trip at an airfare/transportation cost of $54,600, or $18,177 per person. Five Armed Service Committee staffers flew to Japan and Australia on a five day trip at an airfare/transportation cost of $103,493, or $20,698 per person.

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