Rick Perry’s double-dipping

For a presidential candidate who wants to dismantle much of the government, slash much of the public-sector workforce, and eliminate many public-sector benefits, this should be a fairly significant political problem.

Rick Perry has done something his opponents have been hoping he’d do for years: retire. But it’s not what the governor’s detractors had in mind.

Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting his lucrative pension benefits early, but he still gets to collect his salary — and has in turn dramatically boosted his take-home pay.

Perry makes a $150,000 annual gross salary as Texas governor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross annual salary to more than $240,000.

It’s a practice sometimes referred to as “double-dipping” — Perry is enjoying his generous, taxpayer-financed salary, and enjoying his generous taxpayer-financed pension at the same time.

If his presidential campaign fails, and Perry serves the remainder of his third term, he’ll also receive an even-more-generous pension, Social Security, and state-provided health care for the rest of his life.

The Perry campaign has emphasized that all of this is perfectly legal. As best as I can tell, that’s true.

But if the governor and his aides don’t see the problem here, they’re not paying close enough attention — Perry is receiving quite a bit of money from a public-sector benefits system Perry finds ideologically offensive and in need of a radical overhaul.

I suspect Perry, going forward, will have a very hard time working his way back into the top tier of the GOP presidential race, but if he somehow manages a comeback, this is a story the governor would have a tough time defending to his party’s far-right base.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.