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Monday, March 11, 2013

Are Perks for Politicians Fueling our Demise?


Government Fueling our Own Collapse
When the current president took office, the U.S. owed $3.07 trillion to foreign debt holders. That number has ballooned to $5.48 trillion today. A 78% increase in four years. The next four years could be even worse... and not just for the national balance sheet. This out-of-control debt is wreaking havoc on your own personal economic future…yet, our government has billions to give to countries such as Egypt and to incompetent government agencies such as the TSA…

The Pentagon and military have been war-gaming large-scale economic collapse and civil unrest for nearly four years. Those within our government who understand the ramifications a massive breakdown in our systems of commerce, transportation and justice are preparing by stockpiling weapons and ammo, tens of millions of food rations, and even emergency shelters. They are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on continuity of government programs and exercizes, preparing for what they know is coming.

The government may be stockpiling and preparing, but understand that none of these emergency supplies are reserved for you and your family. Only essential personnel involved directly with government operations will have access to these critical survival supplies.

While the President and Congress is bankrupting the nation…

Spoiled by congressional perks most Americans could only dream of, Washington lawmakers have utterly lost any sense they may have had of the true value of money.

With annual salaries more than triple that of the average American worker, short work weeks and an array of benefits that would make most CEOs jealous, it's no wonder members of Congress can't manage the nation's budget.

And when it comes time to retire, few workers will enjoy benefits as fine as those bestowed on members of Congress.

For one thing, lawmakers qualify for a pension, a benefit that has been all but eliminated for most American workers. Long-serving members can qualify for pensions that exceed the salaries of most workers.

For example, a member who retired at the end of 2012 with 20 years of service would qualify for a pension of $59,160, according to the Congressional Research Service. Better still, that pension will be adjusted for inflation - almost unheard of in the private sector.

Plus, lawmakers can participate in the federal employee 401(k)-style "Thrift Savings Plan" that matches the first 5% of their contribution. And on top of that, they also qualify for full Social Security benefits.

Their lavish benefits include:

Full-time pay, part-time hours: You'd think that working in Congress would require long hours, but it's really a part-time job. The Congressional 2013 calendar has only 126 working days scheduled. That's an average workweek of about 2.5 days.

Free travel: Members of Congress have several means of getting free travel. They can use money from their annual allowance, which typically pays for trips back to their home district. But a bottomless Treasury account pays for "fact-finding trips" to almost anywhere in the world. Spouses are welcome. Incredibly, each member gets an allowance of up to $3,000 per day for each trip. Lawmakers typically pocket any money left over. Finally, members can also accept free trips from private sponsors if it has to do with official congressional business. Such trips can include not only coach rate airfare, but food and lodging as well. And again, spouses are welcome.

Special tax breaks: Most legislators need a home away from home somewhere in Washington, so clearly they need a $3,000 tax deduction for "living expenses." Meanwhile, few of the other lucrative benefits they get are in any way taxable

Airline privileges: Some may know that representatives have guaranteed free parking at two major Washington areas airports, Dulles International and Reagan National. But they also have hotlines to the major airlines to speed the reservation process. What's more, lawmakers typically reserve seats on multiple flights but only pay for the seats they use.

Gym memberships: Senate and House members each have their own exclusive gym that is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. House members pay just $20 a month in dues; senators pay $40 a month. It's unclear what it really costs to operate the two facilities; the expenses are buried in other budgets and Congress has refused to provide more details.

Private elevators - and a subway: Perhaps legislators need the gym because they don't get enough exercise by walking. They have their own personal subway to shuttle them between their offices, committee rooms and the Capitol. They also have members-only elevators with staffers running ahead of them to push the buttons so they can hop right on without waiting.

Free mail: The "franking" privilege allows members of Congress to send out official mail to their constituents on the taxpayer dime. For the rest of us, the cost of a first-class postage stamp just went up by another penny to 46 cents.

"You get the feeling like they just don't get what's going on out there in the real world when they have all these perks at their fingertips," Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, told ABC News. "The gyms and the hair care and all the parking facilities that they have ... They're really living a different life than the average American."

Sources:  Money Morning Briefing and…

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