Congressional pensions are another extraordinarily lucrative perk. Retired senators and representatives do not, as is sometimes thought, collect their congressional salaries for life. But retirement pay can be strikingly generous. Like other federal workers, members of Congress can qualify for a pension in addition to Social Security benefits. Congressional pensions vest after just five years of service, and can be paid out as early as age 50. “For each year of service,” Andrzejewski writes, “a member’s annual pension increases by about $2,000,” so that after just six years of service, a member is entitled to a pension of approximately $12,000 per year. Of course, most members of Congress serve longer than that, and their pensions reflect it.
According to the Census Bureau, the average Social Security recipient nets around $15,000 a year in benefits. But a member of Congress who retires after 20 years in the House and/or Senate can expect to average $59,000 annually in pension benefits. Exactly how much a particular retired member is collecting, however, is usually impossible to find out. As Andrzejewski notes, “federal pensions are legally classified as ‘private information’ and not subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosures. So taxpayers help fund and fully guarantee the payouts, but have no right to see who receives how much."
It doesn’t stop there:
TRAVEL: 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.
Last year, the US House spent $4.3 million on overseas travel. Our auditors combed through the disclosures and found some pricey trips taken in the summer of 2019.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) spent $23,000 on a one-week trip to Australia. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) spent $75,000 on an eleven-day trip to Italy, Morocco, and France. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) spent $14,357 in transportation costs to Germany, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, and France on a one-week trip. . . .
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.
And still more perks:
The pin – which gets members around the lines; the license plate – which allows free parking sometimes in illegal zones; 72% subsidized health insurance; a $25-per-month on-site Capitol Hill gym membership with a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, and paddleball.
There is an on-site beauty salon and dedicated subway to shuttle members around the Hill. Taxpayers spent $10 million over the last five-years on elevator doormen whose job it is to hit the buttons and hold doors.
Furthermore, Congress exempted themselves from certain federal laws, i.e. the Freedom of Information Act, safety and health investigatory subpoenas, [and] protections against retaliation for whistleblowers.
Add to that free air travel to their home states, hundreds of days per year when Congress isn't in session, free parking at Washington’s airport, plus free postage, offices, and furnishings. And, as of last week, free inoculations against Covid-19, well before most Americans will be able to get similar protection.
“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress,” Mark Twain observed. That was in 1897. Imagine what he would say today.