Politics, Roundup

A Proposed 28th Amendment May Be a Good Idea, But Don’t Justify It With Myths

There’s draft language of a proposed 28th Amendment that’s been kicking around for years. It reads:

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the Citizens of the United States.

Some of the proposals for this Constitutional Amendment in the age of Facebook appear to be responses to outrage over the idea that members of Congress receive their full salaries for life even after only one term, or that children of congressmen don’t have to repay their students loans, or even that representatives receive access to a particular health insurance plan not available to the general public.

A 28th Amendment would be useful, but not terribly so

The problem with these memes is that congressmen don’t get their salaries for life, their family members don’t get a pass on repaying their debt, and that members Congressional, like many employees everywhere, receive non-monetary benefits including healthcare.

So the supporting evidence to justify this amendment is nonsense.

But where does such nonsense come from?

Snopes.com suggests that the concept of congressional kids getting a free ride may stem from a federal student loan repayment program where employees get matching benefits for their kids.

The Federal Student Loan Repayment Program applies only to employees of federal agencies,” Snopes says. “It does not cover loans made to their children or other family members, and it does not provide student loan benefits to congressional family members.

But what of the lifetime salaries?

“It is not true that Congressmen ‘continue to draw their same pay, until they die,’” Snopes clarifies.

The size of their pensions is determined by a number of factors (primarily length of service, but also factors such as when they joined Congress, their age at retirement, their salary, and the pension options they chose when they enrolled in the retirement system) and by law cannot exceed 80 percent of their salary at the time of their retirement.

That’s not to say that the proposed 28th Amendment isn’t a good idea. But good ideas shouldn’t use myths to help generate support.


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