Sure, Russia may be poised to invade Ukraine in the most blatantly-illegal landgrab since Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia. But “So what?” sayeth the American citizenry, “we’re more interested in government infighting and fact-skewing by our favorite dumbass political pundits.”
So a U.S. Congressman actually had the temerity to comment publicly on the relatively low salaries of House Representatives earlier this week, inspiring the usual round of long-debunked “Retired Congressmen earn their full pay every year until they die!” bullshit infographics, angry tweets, and Facebook screeds trending up and down the scale.
What exactly was said?
Virginia Congressman James P. Moran was quoted as saying: “I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid.” Mr. Moran’s Congressional salary is $174,000 per year. Cue a load of hyped-up outrage.
But listen up, gang… it’s time for a nasty lil ‘ol thing I like to call “the facts” to show up and spoil everyone’s planned witch burning.
And FYI — this is NOT a political comment— it’s simply a financial observation:
For the record, on average it costs a member of the Congressional House of Representatives roughly $1.7 million dollars to win a Congressional seat (this is just the House, NOT the Senate. A Senatorial seat costs ten times what a House seat does). To remain in office— just for the cost of the next election— each Member of the House must personally raise on average at least $2,300 a day, every day, for the two years of their term in order to pay for their next election bid.
Their salaries are equal to about 1/10th of that. So they spend most of their time fundraising, because if they don’t, they lose their seat to someone else. They also have to pay for all the travel involved with raising all that money, and are strictly-controlled regarding what government-provided supplies, mailing options, office equipment, or other resources they are allowed to use for campaigning. It’s seriously tough.
The same is true for Dems AND Repubs. That’s the system. So, it sucks that the most dedicated lawmakers who spend the most time on their actual job, and NOT campaigning, often lose their seats to others (who are willing to shake hands and collect money all day long) because they get outspent.
The ENTIRE COST of ALL Congressional salaries AND expenses averages about $805 million dollars a year. That’s a pretty big number.
However it is essentially a drop in the bucket when one considers that the federal government currently spends 25 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR maintaining federal buildings that are completely unused and totally vacant.
174k sure isn’t chickenfeed, but then, THESE are the people who were chosen by America through a brutal election process to create and defend the laws of the land for the benefit of all.
Here’s another number for comparison: $40,266,501. That’s 40 MILLION DOLLARS AND CHANGE. It’s the 2012 annual salary of R.W. Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobile.
And yet another: Richard Berman, formerly one of the slimiest heavy hitters in the inner beltway Lobbying game, founded and still manages as many as four specialized “non-profit interest groups” created exclusively to apply pressure (and dispense donations) to the political system… furthering the causes of the fast food industry, the tobacco industry, the alcoholic beverage industry, the anti-union movement, and opposition to raising the minimum wage. He earns something in the neighborhood of 15 million dollars a year in personal salary (it’s hard to track, hidden behind all that non-profit accounting).
So the shady guys whose job it is to influence and manipulate our Congressmen get paid 50x more than the Congressmen themselves. Maybe we shouldn’t whine so much about the salaries of our elected representatives. The better off they are, the less likely they are to cave in to bribery from well-paid lobbyists. Know what I mean?
Once external money enters the campaign system and inflates prices so high that candidates have to beg from big corporations just to afford the cost of being elected, then it’s a just a long slow slide downhill to complete corruption.
But for a Junior Representative desperately trying to keep his job in Congress— yeah, that 174k salary doesn’t do all that much for him at all.
I sure as hell wouldn’t want to try to make ends meet while holding down that job.