Millionaire Senator Dianne Feinstein collects $1m+ in tax-funded pensions from San Francisco

Originally published June 3, 2018 on Medium

5.95 Million. That is the number of Californians in working families who currently live in poverty according to research conducted by Stanford. Almost 6 million people work hard every day and still aren’t able to make ends meet. These are parents who face a choice between keeping the lights on or being able to afford to eat dinner with their kids. These are people working overtime to pay for skyrocketing rent and high taxes, which forces them to avoid seeing a doctor after injuries or during illness because of the cost.

More than $1 million. That is the amount of tax dollars that U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has collected in the quarter of a century since she last lifted a finger as Mayor of San Francisco. That is, according to the MIT living wage calculator, enough to feed almost 100 families of 4 for a year. Although she is one of the top 10 wealthiest people in Congress, she gladly accepts just under $60,000 per year in the form of a publicly-funded pension, which is more than the median income of Americans in 2016.

Pension plans are made to protect workers. Public sector employees usually benefit from a pension partially funded by taxpayer dollars. The City of San Francisco, for example, has for decades offered a pension plan to its employees after they complete years of civil service.

People work hard for their money and for their pensions, and most of us will rely on them to help us keep sheltered and healthy as we grow old. For many elderly Californians, pensions are a saving grace that elevates their income above the poverty line, allowing them to retire with dignity.

Dianne Feinstein, on the other hand, has a net worth of at least $80 million. Her husband, Richard Blum, is a billionaire. Yet, Feinstein collects at least $229,000 per year, about four times the median income, all at the expense of taxpayers.

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Senator Feinstein needs that money like a fish needs a bicycle.

She has a legal right to take it, but she also has a moral obligation to donate or refuse it. Because Feinstein was Mayor of San Francisco from 1978–1988, the law says the pension is available to her, but is it necessary for her to ensure a financially stable retirement? No.

Even Donald Trump has donated his presidential salary of $400,000 per year to multiple federal agencies and departments. With this choice, Trump finds himself in the company of presidents like John F. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover.

Far too many San Franciscans, Californians and Americans have seen their public-funded pension decrease or disappear, and they don’t have millions to fall back on. Feinstein doesn’t need more than $55,000 in free cash from San Francisco taxpayers to survive or even to thrive. Taking a pension while being part of the 1% is so blatantly immoral that even President Trump found a way to make the correct choice. Feinstein’s inaction on this matter speaks volumes about her character and her attitude towards those she hopes to continue to represent.

Alison Hartson