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Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Representing the 2nd District of Maryland

Mythbusters

Please contact Congressman Ruppersberger's Washington office at 202-225-3061 for additional information of any of the following issues. Click here to check out common myths related to the healthcare reform law.

Busted: Members of Congress receive their salaries for life.

Congressman Ruppersberger’s office occasionally hears from constituents who believe Members of Congress receive their salary for life. Here are the facts:

  • Members of Congress currently earn $174,000 a year. They have not received a pay increase since 2010.
  • Congressional pensions are determined by a number of factors, including length of service, when they were elected to Congress, their age at retirement and the pension options they choose when they enroll in the retirement system.
  • By law, Members of Congress cannot ever exceed 80 percent of their salary at the time of their retirement.

Busted: Members of Congress, their families, and staffers, don’t have to pay back student loans.

Many constituents have contacted Congressman Ruppersberger's office regarding a false news report that suggests Members of Congress, their family members and staffs are exempt from paying back student loans. 

Here are the facts, as obtained from Snopes:

  • No law or program automatically exempts Congressional staffers and family members from having to repay their student loans.
  • The Student Loan Repayment Program is a discretionary benefit that can be offered by federal agencies—beyond Congress – to select employees as an aid in hiring and retaining qualified personnel. It does not apply to everyone who works for those agencies, and it does not forgive student loans in full.

Busted: The 3.8% "Medicare Tax"

Many constituents have contacted Congressman Ruppersberger's office regarding a misleading email chain that describes a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, including the sale of single family homes, townhouses, co-ops, condominiums and rental income.The new tax is effective January 1, 2013.

Here are the facts:

  • The Medicare tax is not a sales tax, nor does is apply to all real estate transactions. It is a small tax on investment income (which may or may not derive from the sale of property), applied only to "high-income" taxpayers who make a profit beyond a specified threshold.
  • "High-income" persons are those who make $200,000 a year or $250,000 for married couples.
  • Even for "high-income" persons, the tax still won't apply to the first $250,000 on profits from the sale of property or to the first $500,000 in the case of a married couple selling their home.

Busted: The 1% Bank Transaction Tax

Many constituents have contacted Congressman Ruppersberger’s office regarding a misleading email chain that describes a 1 percent tax on all types of financial transaction, including cash and check deposits, transfers between personal accounts and direct deposits.

Here are the facts:

  • This idea was first proposed by Congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania in 2004. After his bill failed to gain the support of a single cosponsor, Representative Fattah tried again unsuccessfully in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
  • This bill no longer exists. Congressman Fattah has introduced similar legislation that includes an exemption on transfers between and deposits into personal accounts. The bill has yet to gain the support of any other members of the House of Representatives.
  • This bill has not been acknowledged, endorsed, or supported by anyone in the administration.

Busted: Congress and Pay Raises

Occasionally, our office hears from a constituent who has received an email accusing Members of Congress of voting to give themselves pay raises, while voting against Social Security cost of living adjustments and increases to Medicaid premiums.

Here are the facts:

  • Congress voted in 2010 and again in 2011 to eliminate what previously were automatic salary increases. Members of Congress have not received a pay increase since this freeze in 2010.
  • Social Security cost of living adjustments are pre-determined by a formula based on inflation that has been in place since 1975. Congress does not vote on these adjustments.
  • Medicaid premiums (where they exist) are set by the states, not by Congress.

Busted: The President Giving Alaskan Land to Russia

Congressman Ruppersberger’s office occasionally hears from concerned constituents who have heard that the President is ceding oil-rich Alaskan islands to Russia.

Here are the facts:

  • The islands at issue are named Wrangel, Henrietta, Jeanette, Bennett, Herald, and Copper. Americans were involved in the discovery and exploration of some of these islands, but they have always belonged to the Russian Federation. They were not included in the original purchase of Alaska from Russia and have never been a part of the United States.
  • In 1992, the Russian Federation informed the United States that it would continue to uphold the boundary treaties signed by the Soviet Union. In 1994, the Supreme Court of Alaska again stated that the islands do not belong to the United States.
  • The Department of State reiterated this position in 2003. You can find more information here.

Busted: The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

Several constituents have contacted Congressman Ruppersberger's office about a rumored United Nations Arms Trade Treaty that would provide a legal framework circumventing the Second Amendment, which is the right to bear arms.

Here are the facts:

  • The United Nations has been studying the feasibility of an international arms trade treaty. The concept aims to combat the illicit international trade of arms. It has nothing to do with the legal sale or ownership of guns in the United States.
  • No treaty has been proposed, nor ratified by Congress, nor signed by the President.
  • The right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. A 1957 Supreme Court ruling (Reid v. Covert) determined that the Constitution and its amendments supersede international treaties.
  • The only way to circumvent the Second Amendment is a further amendment that either repeals or alters it.

Busted: United Nations Agenda 21 Socialism Theories

Constituents occasionally contact the office inquiring about a United Nations agreement known as “Agenda 21.” Rumors suggest that this document promotes socialism through a “world government” that would supersede U.S. laws.  More information is available here.

Here are the facts:

  • Agenda 21 is a framework to promote economic growth while protecting the environment. It encourages – not commands – the formation of a global partnership to address developmental and environmental concerns of the 21st century, such as poverty, literacy and the depletion of natural resources.
  • Agenda 21 was adopted unanimously by all 178 countries that participated in the 1992 Rio Conference, including the U.S. under President George H.W. Bush, who was present for the signing of the agreement.
  • Participation from each nation is completely voluntary.
  • As a non-binding agreement, Agenda 21 does not take supremacy over U.S. law.

Busted: Monthly Medicare Part B premiums will increase to $247 by 2014

A chain email states that the healthcare reform law will increase monthly Medicare Part B premiums from the present fee of $96.40 to $104.20 in 2012, $120 in 2013 and $247 in 2014. More information can be found here.

  • No provision of the health care legislation passed during the Obama administration changes Medicare premium rates.
  • New Medicare premium rates are determined each fall and take effect each January. Part B rates decreased from $115.40 in 2011 to $99.90 in 2012. Current projections for 2014 are about $115.
  • Projected premiums through 2020 can be found in this report from the Medicare system trustees.