Two House Democrats (yes, Democrats) say that members of Congress deserve a raise. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is concerned that they haven’t had a cost of living adjustment since 2009. According to Politico, Hoyer feels that was appropriate during the recession, but now feels it’s time for a change, because a continued freeze could dissuade all but the super rich from running for office.
Hoyer’s not alone; Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) also believes that Congress deserves a raise on those grounds. Hastings said, according to the Politico piece, that cost of living in Washington is making it very hard for everyday Americans to afford living there, even (and perhaps, especially) on a part-time basis.
There are a couple of problems with that. The biggest has to do with running for office. The only people who really are able to run for office are the wealthy, because regular people often just can’t afford to run a campaign to begin with. They can’t save enough money to take that much time off work, they can’t take paid time off (those who get paid time off) because there isn’t enough, and they don’t have the right network to woo the wealthy donors who will ensure that the super rich win elections anyway.
In other words, why bother sacrificing evenings, weekends, family time, and your scant savings to run for an office you’re not likely to win? Sure, some can do it, but to many regular Americans, it’s impossible. Raising Congress’ salary isn’t going to change how difficult it is for the everyday American just to run.
All this shows is just how out of touch most of Congress is; yes, even Democrats. Hoyer and Hastings are both Democrats and are supposed to understand the needs of everyday Americans. What about private sector workers who must make do with the pay they’ve got, even if they do live in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.? Private sector pay still lags behind cost of living in many places.
NPR reports that the median income for Washington, D.C. in 2012 was $44,452. When cost of living was factored in, income was just $35,029. How is giving Congress a raise going to help these people be able to run for office? How is it going to help them find a job again if they lose a re-election bid?
What about all the federal workers who are barely able to make ends meet out there, or in other expensive cities? It’s true that, when you factor in their benefits, federal employees tend to earn a bit more than their private-sector counterparts. However, they don’t earn nearly what Congress earns. Besides that, to run for office, federal employees have to quit their jobs first. Quitting your job, and finding a way to meet your living expenses while you’re running for office, is a very frightening prospect.
How about Congress find a way to make running for office attractive, first, by getting big money out of the race and showing everyday Americans that they do, in fact, have a chance at getting elected without ties to big money?
Even better, why don’t the people who are currently in Congress figure out how to get back in touch with what the everyday American lives with? You know, start representing the people again, instead of the moneyed elite and their special interests. They could pass a Constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and McCutcheon, and create new, very strict campaign finance laws, along with other strict campaigning laws.
In other words, make it so that running for office, and then staying in office, isn’t the huge, horribly expensive and daunting production it currently is.
It comes down to this: When there are so many regular workers struggling, talking about attracting people to a job that already pays nearly $200,000 per year by increasing that pay is just insulting. It’s hard to have sympathy for lawmakers who spend their time either campaigning or bickering instead of governing, even if one of their problems is maintaining two residences. To hear all of this whining coming from Democrats is even worse. Perhaps, if Congress pegged their own pay increases to increases in the minimum wage, it would be a little easier to swallow. At least then they’d be doing something for the common man.
Featured image by geralt. Licensed under Public Domain via Pixabay