PROBE: September 10, 2001

September 10, 2001

QUESTION: Did you know our United States senators and congressmen do not pay into Social Security and, therefore they do not collect from it. They felt they should have a special plan. Many years ago they voted in their benefit plan.

For all practical purposes, their plan works like this: When they retire, no matter how long they have been in office, they continue to draw their same pay until they die, except it may be increased from time to time by cost-of-living adjustments.

For example, former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., and his wife may be expected to draw $7.9 million over an average lifespan, with Mrs. Bradley drawing $275,000 during the last year of her life. Their cost for this excellent plan is "0," nada, zilch. This little perk they voted in for themselves is free to them.

You and I pick up the tab for this plan — our tax dollars at work! Social Security, which you and I pay into every payday for our own retirement, is not as sweet a setup. With an equal amount paid in by our employer, we can expect to receive an average of $1,000 per month.


We would have to collect our benefits for 68 years and 1 month to equal the Bradley family's benefits.

I say put them into the Social Security plan with the rest of us. Watch how fast they fix it! — Taxed Taxpayer, via email

We couldn't agree with you more. Doesn't Washington, D.C., seem farther away than ever? What a reward for serving their country, eh?

And we would guess that Bradley, not known as a particularly greedy or high-living guy, is not the worst offender. What is more likely is he is the smartest.

QUESTION: Are there any support groups or study groups available to help seniors pass the written California driver's license exam? I need some help. I would consider hiring a tutor as well, if necessary. — Fishing Fool, Holtville

Well, since you e-mailed us, we'll ask you if you have found anything on the Internet?

OK readers, if you've passed the driver's test or are studying yourself, leave a message on the PROBE line to "hook up" with our Holtville fisherman who wants to keep driving.

We do know the American Association of Retired Persons has in the past offered a program called "55 Alive" to help seniors with driving issues. We don't know if that is still going. Maybe someone from AARP can tell us. We didn't have any luck reaching senior advocates to get an update on the program.

QUESTION: What is this T.O.M.A. ad I've been seeing in your paper? The ad has run several times and all it says is that word. I called one of your reporters today and he asked around, but no one seems to know what it means. He said in Spanish it either means a really nasty insult or to eat something. Is that what it means? Do you know? — Ad Reader, no city

We've been wondering as well. Since it's an advertisement, we went to John Yanni, the head ad man here at the paper.

He knows what T.O.M.A. is, but he's not giving away any information.

"Just keep reading the Imperial Valley Press," he said, and all your questions will be answered.

Guess we'll have to keep an eye out, too, because we still don't know what it is.

We may be as interested, and provoked, as you.

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