Determining how much is too much in the way of pension benefits for former members of Congress is an impossible task, given the variables involved.

Some leave as millionaires, some with middling assets. Some may have achieved more than others, though that determination is in the eye of each voter. At a salary of $174,000 a year, none lives at the level of the average constituent — or the average federal employee.

As Congress and the White House push to have those federal workers pay more into their retirement plans, it makes sense for elected officials to do likewise. Shared sacrifice is something all can agree on, even if specific sums are not.

All federal workers, elected and unelected, enjoy retirement benefits better than the bulk of the private sector, including continuation in a relatively low-cost health care plan. Ex-senators and representatives do especially well, even after reforms in the 1980s mandated them to pay into Social Security, among other tightening.

Now Congress is busy trying to bring federal workers’ retirement contributions and benefits more in line with the private sector, a change that is warranted financially and useful politically, even if it does bring some pain. There does not seem to be widespread enthusiasm in Congress for taking on some of that new pain.

Something tells us that the afterlife of public servants is an issue that resonates with voters. That is good news to the extent it stems not from petty resentment but rather from a concern that Washington can be a faraway place in more ways than geography.

In that regard, what can bring a senator or representative closer to home than a vote against his or her own pocketbook?

Editorial by The Indianapolis Star

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