Friday, June 17, 2011


You thought Anthony Weiner ended Weinergate yesterday? Wrong. Weiner's career is dead, but that doesn't mean the right won't approach the corpse and put the boot in one last time:

That's brilliant -- an apparent outrage that's easy to grasp, with a vivid, simple-to-remember number. I'm already seeing the meme repeated by posters at right-wing message boards.

Of course, when you go to the story, you realize there's nothing extraordinary here, and much of the money here is Weiner's own (and may not even exist):

... According to an analysis of his available benefits by the National Taxpayers Union, the New York Democrat's pension and a savings plan lawmakers have access to similar to a 401(k) could be worth $1.12 million to $1.28 million.

At 46, Weiner will not be eligible for his pension for another decade, at which point he could begin drawing a reduced rate of $32,357 a year, according to NTU. If he waits until age 62 to begin drawing his pension, he will receive his full benefits, or $46,224, according to NTU's calculations.

Additionally, if Weiner aggressively invested in the Thrift Savings Plan, his balance would be roughly $216,000, the organization said....

So some of this money is money he'll get if he put it into the equivalent of a 401(k). He may not have -- or more likely, he may have invested but (like most people with similar accounts) not "aggressively."

And as for the pension, well, it's available to him just as it's available to other members of Congress who retire.

Like, um, John Ensign:

When former Sen. John Ensign resigned from Congress this month, he became eligible to take home a parting taxpayer gift -- an estimated $27,000 in annual retirement pay.

Even as he departed under a cloud, Ensign, 53, qualifies for a full pension once he turns 62, based on his 10 years of service and salaries he earned while representing Nevada in the U.S. Senate, according to calculations by the National Taxpayers Union.

... the pension further is protected by annual cost-of-living increases.

Congressional pensions are typically two to three times more generous than those offered to similarly salaried workers in the private sector, according to the National Taxpayers Union. Further, only one in 10 private plans offers similar cost-of-living features.

... In addition to pensions, lawmakers while in Congress also qualify to take part in a 401(k) style Thrift Savings Plan that matches their contributions up to 5 percent....

I'm not sure why Weiner seems to be eligible for more pension. He served a bit longer in the House than Ensign did in the Senate; also, he's younger, so maybe that cost-of-living adjustment increases his total. Yes, it's a sweet deal. But it's a sweet deal for every member of Congress, except the ones who've actually been convicted of crimes, serious crimes, not just for Weiner.

You'll be astonished to learn that Drudge has a double standard on this: he never posted a headline of any kind about Ensign's retirement benefits -- red or otherwise.


UPDATE: In comments, RAM asks,

How much pension does Larry Craig qualify for? He actually WAS convicted of a crime.

A substantial pension, according to this story from around the time of his 2007 resignation:

... because of his age and the time he spent in Congress, Craig is eligible for a full pension, a Congressional Research Service report shows. The National Taxpayers Union estimates the pension at $98,000 a year, assuming he joined the system upon entering the House in 1981.

... Craig voted for a Senate measure that would deny pensions to lawmakers convicted of serious crimes, such as bribery, conspiracy and perjury. The legislation, not yet signed by the president, has no effect on Craig, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

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