Information about the 2018 Senate race and the truth about government pensions: can members of Congress really retire with full pay?

Two Republican candidates are vying to replace U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow: John James and Sandy Pensler. Click on their names to learn more. They are locked in a dead heat but neither is expected to replace her, probably due to incumbent inertia since neither is well-known or has as large a campaign war chest.

In my opinion Senator Stabenow has done little or nothing to help the people of Michigan. Along with eight other Senators, Stabenow tied for “Most Liberal Senator” in 2011. I wish her a well-deserved retirement, however, and do not begrudge her the GENEROUS Congressional pension. Retiring and replacing her with a conservative who will help grow the economy, providing jobs for thousands of people is well worth what it costs the taxpayers. The latest economic growth of 4.1% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for the last quarter under President Trump is amazing. We’ll see if that growth rate can hold up in the long run. People will be comparing it with President Obama’s record.

Of course I think their pensions should be far less lucrative, which can be as high as 80% of the $174,000 salary or $139,200 for the longest serving members of Congress. So far no one has made it to 67 years, which is how long it takes to reach 80%. The longest serving member so far is Michigan Congressman John Dingell, Jr. His bio is worth reading; an interesting and colorful career. Pay and benefits should be sufficient to discourage bribery in its many forms but not enough that every slick communicator seeks public office. Of course some seek power for its own sake. Very few politicians are true public servants.

Dingell served 60 years, retiring at age 87 and was replaced by his wife Debbie in 2016. The Dingell dynasty actually started 22 years earlier, since John Jr. replaced his father, who died of tuberculosis while in office. He was known as a moderate Democrat, a champion of the auto industry and did a good enough job for his constituents (or had enough campaign money!), who returned him to office, always by double-digit margins.

Senator Stabenow has been in Congress for 22 years so far, and would receive the standard pension for federal workers. This formula is 1.7% of salary times years of service: $174,000 * 22 * 0.017 = $65076, 37% of her annual salary. Her pension from the State of Michigan for 15 years in the state legislature is $64349, 90% of the current pay rate of $71,685.

The Michigan Legislature is one of ten full-time state legislatures in the USA. They are the fourth-highest paid in the country, after California, Pennsylvania and New York.

The two pensions plus Social Security benefits of roughly $30,000 per year (also based on income) gives a tidy sum of $159,425 per year, not bad for a 39 year career. Most people in private industry, salaried and hourly, would be happy to trade retirement plans, especially the working class and middle income families Democrats claim to represent. Most of us earn far less. Some politicians harp on income inequality while supporting policies like NAFTA and other trade agreements that encourage companies to outsource overseas.

Which candidate would you support after reading this Detroit News article about their televised debate? In a future article, I will tell who I support and why. Stay tuned….