"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cut Congress' Salaries?

Apparently there's a move afoot to get the new GOP Congress to cut its own salaries, as reported in The Hill.   “The Republicans have set the bar very high for their re-ascendency to power, and that means they need to come up with a direct symbol to the public that’s just as strong," said Pete Sepp, the executive vice president of the conservative National Taxpayers Union.

Symbols are good.  I, for one, wouldn't mind if the GOP House tried to eliminate funding for National Public Radio, or the National Endowment for the Arts, or the Department of Education.  (This last one would be more than symbolic at approximately $50 billion a year.)  

But this is stupid and, worse, wrong.   Boehner as Speaker of the House will make $223,500.  The base pay for House and Senate lawmakers is $174,000, while majority and minority leaders each make $193,400 per year.   To put that in perspective, the average starting salary for 25 year-old law school graduates at AmLaw 200 firms (the 200 biggest law firms in America according to American Lawyer magazine) was $160,000.   Our Congressmen are not overpaid; arguably, they are underpaid.  

As I've mentioned before, I met Paul Ryan on a plane once, coming home from a week in Washington.  We talked a little about our kids, and how hard it is to be away from them for work.   I travel fairly regularly on business, but a Congressman like Ryan is probably away from home all week, every week.  It's a hard job, a responsible job, a job that we should want at least some of our more talented citizens to do.  They need to be paid commensurately.

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