Losing the majority was probably not enough to make House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., feel unliked, which would explain why he went so far as to suggest that military pay ought to be frozen too. But Hoyer has a salary of $193,400 (not including benefits) while the average military salary is about $53,000 a year. And in January, The Examiner reported that were he to retire this year, he would receive a defined-pension benefit of around $136,541 annually — about 70 percent of his current salary, but still more than twice the average military salary. The pension would also increase every year with adjustments for cost-of-living. That's not to mention the perks Hoyer gets to enjoy such as publicly and privately funded travel for himself and his office.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said including the military would have increased savings and add “an element of fairness.” He made the comments in a statement about he president's announcement of a two-year pay freeze.
“While I appreciate that the president reduced the length of his proposed pay freeze from three to two years,” Hoyer said in a statement, “it would have produced significantly more savings had that sacrifice been shared between federal civilian and military personnel – with a strong exception for the members of our military and civilian employees risking their lives on our behalf in Afghanistan, Iraq, and anywhere else they are serving in harm's way.”
According to Legistorm, Hoyer's most recent salary was six figures, nearly four times that of the average military salary. Meanwhile, since 2000, he has taken privately-funded trips totaling more than $55,000, which itself is more than the average military salary. His office has enjoyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of privately funded travel — $240,716 to be according to Legistorm records.
While not paid for by taxpayers, the trips did come from a variety of special interests and show that Hoyer's not exactly wanting for resources. The American Israel Education Foundation spent about $10,000 each on Hoyer and several staffers for attending “meetings and tours to learn more about the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Swedish-based SAAB provided nearly $7,000 to fly a Hoyer staffer around to “learn more about the Swedish defense industry.” (Read this report on “elite Swedish commandos” blowing up the wrong house.) The Securities Industry Association paid $3,000 for a Hoyer staffer to participate in a panel.
The Examiner called Hoyer's office to obtain travel details of official trips paid for by taxpayer dollars, but has not yet had that call returned. Taxpayers foot the bill for travel between every member's district and Washington, but there is no database that compiles the trips, leaving disclosure to individual office expense reports.
As for Hoyer's pension, David Freddoso wrote in January:
Members who took office before 1984 get the best deal — a generous 2.5 percent of the average of their top three years' salary for each year of service. Their total includes years of military and other government service. Although the payout in the first year of retirement is limited to 80 percent of their last year's salary, it grows automatically each year with the cost of living. … To get that kind of deal in retirement, you would need at least $2 million in your 401(k) and a healthy bull market from now until you die.
While Hoyer's statement was meant to suggest that the pay freeze for federal workers could be seen as unfair, the fact that Hoyer has enjoyed such benefits because of his position in Congress shows the widening chasm between the political class and those they are supposed to serve. Perhaps if he's looking for “an element of fairness” he ought to offer to reduce the burden his pension and salary places on taxpayers.