Determining how much is too much in the way of pension benefits for former members of Congress is an impossible task given the variables involved.
Some leave as millionaires, some with middling assets. Some may have achieved more than others, though that determination is in the eye of each voter. At a salary of $174,000 a year, none lives at the level of the average constituent — or the average federal employee.
As Congress and the White House push to have those federal workers pay more into their retirement plans, it makes sense for elected officials to do likewise. Shared sacrifice is something all can agree on, even if specific sums are not.
All federal workers, elected and unelected, enjoy retirement benefits better than the bulk of the private sector, including continuation in a relatively low-cost health care plan. Ex-senators and representatives do especially well, even after reforms in the 1980s mandated them to pay into Social Security, among other tightening.
Now, Congress is busy trying to bring federal workers’ retirement contributions and benefits more in line with the private sector, a change that is warranted financially and useful politically even if it does bring some pain. There does not seem to be widespread enthusiasm in Congress for taking on some of that new pain.
Something tells us that the afterlife of public servants is an issue that resonates with voters. That is good news to the extent it stems not from petty resentment but rather from a concern that Washington can be a faraway place in more ways than geography. In that regard, what can bring a senator or representative closer to home than a vote against his or her own pocketbook?
The Indianapolis Star
U.S. ‘kill list’ program
The president of the United States oversees a top secret program that places suspected terrorists, including Americans, on a “kill list.” They are essentially marked for death.
President Barack Obama, it was revealed in a New York Times story, personally approves the kills, which are carried out by drone strikes in other countries, such as Pakistan and Yemen, and are often messy affairs in which people who happen to be nearby also get blown up.
Should Americans feel good about this? No, they should not.
Should Americans allow the president the power to personally single out American citizens as suspects, pass judgment on them and carry out death sentences in secret?
Should Americans accept that what amounts to assassinations are conducted by their government based on criteria and legal positions that are kept secret?
Should Americans approve of their government conducting targeted killings of suspects in countries with which America is not at war?
No, they should not.
The kind of unrestrained authority Obama has claimed for himself violates basic democratic principles. The Founding Fathers knew well the dangers of the kind of unchecked power Obama has seized, and the president’s kill list is yet another stark example of how due process and liberty have eroded since 9/11.
Should Americans demand an end to the kill list program?
Yes, they should.
Longmont (Colo.) Times-Call