Ask any public employee about their salaries and they will always mention their coveted pension.
Public employee pensions are one of the last great perks for this employment sector. It is what keeps trash collections going, airplanes flying and the Pentagon staffed (some say, overstaffed) to its highest levels in decades.
The Roman army recognized the benefits of pensions and they were the ones who set the bar at 20 years of service. If you survived decades of fighting, building roads and walls, and gathering your own food and shelter, you got a pension from the Roman army, plus an even better perk; you became a citizen of Rome and all the benefits that entailed, including a seat at the amphitheater to watch the latest spectacles.
Some things are different today, but we still have a spectacle in the nation’s capital. We also have very generous pensions for top military officers.
This is why Flynn is an interesting story. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Flynn is the only person fired by both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, so he must be doing something that rubs White House administrations the wrong way.
As a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, he must also be an embarrassment to the Pentagon for leading the crowd at the Republican national convention during his speech endorsing Donald Trump, where he said: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Damn right! Exactly right! There is nothing wrong with that!”
While he was a private citizen at the Republican convention, Flynn clearly had put all his bets on Trump. Now it looks like that backfired.
So as the special investigations continue, including charges that he derailed a military attack at the request of the Turkish government in exchange for a $500,000 payment, this investigation is a process that could go on for years. In the interim, taxpayers are still paying Flynn’s substantial pension. While details about Flynn’s monthly pension are not public, we can get an idea based on military documents.
Flynn retired at age 56 after about 36 years of Army service. He then served in other high-level federal jobs, including as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He would be in the 0-9 pay grade as a lieutenant general.
Military senior officer pensions are determined either by the highest base pay for their last 36 months of service or by the Final Pay method that is based on years of service and the general’s salary during their last pay period.
The highest possible base pay for a general is $19,762.50 per month with over 40 years of service and the O-10 pay grade. A more average major general with between 26 and 28 years of service has a base pay of $13,647.30. A four-star officer retiring with 40 years of experience would receive an annual pension of $237,144, according to the Pentagon.
Using any method, this is a hefty pension, especially since military and public service pensions are some of the last pensions being offered to Americans today. The private sector is phasing out pensions in favor of 401(k)s at a furious clip, which is putting all the investment risk into the hands of unsophisticated average Americans.
But for the military and elected officials, there is a different standard, especially if those people are convicted of a crime. Take the case of Oliver North, who was convicted of shredding government documents; accepting a bribe in the shape of a security fence; and seeking to keep the truth from Congress in the 1986 Iran-Contra investigation. The U.S. Code lists nearly 40 offenses that carry a penalty of loss of government pension. They are all crimes like espionage, treason, and sabotage.
Flynn does not have that problem, yet and may never will, but unless he is convicted, his pension is guaranteed and he knows it. This made it easier for him to become a highly-paid consultant to Turkey and Russia, and keep the pension money as a guarantee to pay household bills.
Now, as Flynn refuses to co-operate with Senate investigating committees, the question Americans should be asking is whether Flynn deserves to continue to get his taxpayer-provided pension, one that could easily end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
This is especially abhorrent since civilian pensions and retiree health benefits, including those of other public sector workers, such as teachers, are being cut, often without notice.
And Flynn’s situation also raises questions about whether retired, high-ranking military officers should be allowed to leverage Pentagon connections when they retire at a young age to make millions peddling their influence in the private sector, including to non-U.S. governments. And that is the ethical and patriotic question that has Washington DC tied in knots.