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Whatever happened to the idea that candidates ran for Congress to serve the public even though such service involved sacrifice?

Evidently, that notion went out of style long ago, judging from this week's report by the National Taxpayers Union on congressional pensions. Instead, it seems that the road to wealth has taken an expensive detour through Congress.Using standard mortality projections, an NTU study has found that nearly half of the 346 retired members of Congress - including former Utah Senators Wallace F. Bennett and Frank Moss - will collect more than $1 million in pension benefits over their lifetimes. A few will get $2 million.

Such retirees are getting pension checks bigger than the pay checks they received while serving in Congress.

What kind of a pension system pays its recipients more for not working than they received for working? An extremely misguided and excessively lavish one.

Just how lavish can be seen from the fact that congressional pensions are typically two or three times more generous than those in private industry. No wonder the system paying those pensions, the Civil Service Retirement System, has an unfunded liability of $500 billion. Guess who makes up that amount? That's right - the taxpayers.

While the taxpayers don't want to see retired lawmakers living in poverty, there can be no justification for a pension system that regularly produces millionaires by draining the taxpayers. But don't count on reform as long as changes can be made only by the very lawmakers getting rich from the present unfair arrangement.