FBI Scandal: The outrage and self-righteous posturing over the fact that fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe might lose his FBI pension is misplaced. What's truly outrageous is how large and lavish government benefits have become.
McCabe's lucky: At least three congressional Democrats have already stepped up to offer the disgraced former No. 2 FBI official jobs in their offices — hey, it's not their money, right? — so he can qualify for a full pension.
This is being sold as an act of compassion for someone left destitute after 22 years of loyal service. But the fact is, McCabe isn't getting stiffed; he's still eligible for federal retirement benefits. They just won't be as much, and he can't take them right away.
What he does lose is a special deal given to federal employees engaged in police work, fire fighting, security, intelligence or air traffic control that lets them retire early at full benefits after they reach 50 years of age with just 20 years of service.
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McCabe was fired on Friday, just two days before he would have turned 50. He had already applied for retirement in January after meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray. No doubt, McCabe thought back then he would be able to creep out the back door with his pension and benefits intact.
But the Inspector General's office of the Justice Department has accused McCabe of misconduct arising from improper contacts with the news media and misleading FBI investigators about the Hillary Clinton investigation. In case you're wondering, "misleading" is a government euphemism for "lying."
But what really got us was that, after working at the FBI for just 22 years, McCabe's pension package was valued at a whopping $1.8 million. And even if he loses that, as someone who is covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, he'll still get a pension. It'll just be smaller than his FBI pension, and he'll have to wait until 60 to collect it, but it will be generous nonetheless.
Please remember, McCabe was fired on recommendation of the FBI's own Office of Professional Responsibility. It wasn't vindictiveness.
The real scandal is that government bureaucrats like McCabe have gamed the system for years to get platinum retirement and benefits packages, all paid for by the hardworking, taxpaying "deplorables" these same bureaucrats despise.
As one of the federal government's 2.2 million employees, McCabe's pension is subsidized, insured and mostly guaranteed by taxpayers, part of a generous benefits package — covering health insurance, paid leave and, of course, retirement — available to all federal workers.
Along with having 401(k)-type pensions with a generous "employer" match, federal workers also get a defined-benefit pension, to which they contribute less than 1% of their pay. Oh, and they also receive health coverage when they retire. And Social Security.
Private sector workers get nothing comparable.
A Congressional Budget Office study last year noted that "Average benefits were 52% higher for federal employees whose highest level of education was a bachelor's degree than for similar private-sector employees."
As for those federal employees with just a high school diploma, benefits are 93% higher — no, that's not a misprint — than for those with equivalent education in the private sector.
According to data the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is part of the federal government, in 2016 the average federal employee earned $127,259 in total compensation, compared to $70,764 for the private sector. Meanwhile, federal workers enjoyed average annual benefits of $38,450, compared to average benefits in the private sector of just $11,306.
In other words, the average federal employee earns 80% more than a private-sector worker. As we said, that's a real scandal. Yet average Americans are supposed to shed tears for McCabe's "lost" pension rights.
We're not averse to retirement benefits. But, unlike the private sector, government officials have protected and insured retirements and cost-of-living increases.
Today, most private sector workers rely on their own savings and the financially shaky Social Security system for retirement. But as they do, they'll also have to pony up for the retirements of local, state and federal workers, most of whom get a far better deal than the private sector workers do.
The public-private gap is quite scary: According to a 2011 CBO study, among private-sector workers aged 55 to 64, 52% had nothing — zero — in retirement savings. But if you work for a local, state or federal government, no worries.
"In reality, public pension plans offer long-term government workers benefits that make them among the best-off retirees in the country," wrote the American Enterprise Institute in a 2014 study. "Indeed, the average full-career government worker in eight states retires as a 'pension millionaire,' with 23 states paying $750,000 or more in lifetime retirement benefits."
So don't cry for McCabe. He'll likely get his gilded FBI pension anyway, and even if he loses that, he'll still get a nice federal package to retire on. After all, big government takes care of its own — and that doesn't include you.