If you paid attention in eighth-grade grammar class, you would have learned that politics is derived from “poly,” which means “many,” and “ticks,” which means “blood-sucking parasites.”
Some might say this is too harsh, because politicians command respect, personify honor, and showcase decency. But how come the only time we ever see these folks with their hands in their pockets is when it’s too cold outside? In fact, the only reason Washington attracts 20 million visitors each year is that Americans want to be closer to their money.
OK, enough with the Bob Hope jokes.
Would You Like a COLA?
Life seems to be getting more expensive in the swamp. It’s so unfriendly to the wallet that some politicians might end their showboating and reveal their true colors to constituents by demanding more of their money. Some lawmakers believe they deserve more than $174,000 a year. Considering congressional approval is near historic lows, these elephants and donkeys need to go back to the circus and study how to deliver better jokes.
Each year for the last decade, Congress overwhelmingly has voted to reject an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). If lawmakers had accepted these annual pay hikes, salaries would be more than $200,000 now; the most recent increase would have totaled $4,000. Indeed Congress is entitled to a pay raise as part of a 30-year-old reform measure, but, as Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) succinctly put it, taking it “would be as popular as the plague.” Instead, these men and women put on some good old political theater and portray themselves as martyrs.
But some senior leaders are more open to the idea. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), reportedly “a key force” behind this push, feels that “salaries should not limit those who can serve their country, either as a member of Congress or as congressional staff.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) revealed that “I’ve got members who are leaving over this.”
The topic has risen to the surface because the annual appropriations process has commenced. Typically, this is when the COLA is killed, but Democrats have decided this time not to eliminate the hike when drafting the legislative branch spending bill. However, aides warn that the inflation adjustment could be kiboshed later or in separate legislation.
Everyone apparently accepts the premise that agreeing to a pay raise would be poor optics. Hoyer thinks the GOP fears the political fallout, while Democrats, particularly freshmen and -women seeking re-election, would like to avoid the issue to ensure they stay in power.
Mr. Smith Goes to Earn a Paycheck
When Washington racks up a $22 trillion bill, ships men and women overseas to die in senseless regime-change wars, and finds new ways to fleece the taxpayers, they are not sending their best and brightest.
It is often argued that, to attract qualified and honest folks to Washington, politicians need to be paid high salaries; otherwise, Congress will be populated by corruptible individuals eager to sell the country to the highest bidder. Well, this naivete might be true if you haven’t been paying attention to what has been transpiring on Capitol Hill for the last quarter-century.
Today, the men and women serving in the House or Senate seem to occupy their seats until their dying breaths. They do not relinquish control over the people. Can you blame them? In addition to telling constituents what to do, you can also expect to receive a six-figure salary, annual allowances, and benefits; after a few terms, you get a lifelong pension benefit of $74,000 (on average).
This is a far cry from what the founding fathers intended. They had envisioned a form of government that would entice commoners to serve the will of the electorate for a short time and then return to their personal affairs. They did not establish the world’s greatest experiment so that politicians can spend 40 years in the epicenter of power, enrich their bank accounts, and attain immense authority over the people.
Writing in “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge,” former President Thomas Jefferson said, “Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” One of the justifications behind this philosophy was revealed in a 1785 letter when he wrote: “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it the second time.”
So, what’s the solution? Pay the legislators nothing at all? Well, that could be a goal, though it’s rather unrealistic. Perhaps New Mexico and New Hampshire could serve as models for the rest of the country. Lawmakers in the Land of Enchantment work part-time and earn a per diem of $161. A legislator in the Granite State also is classified as a part-time employee and makes only $200 per two-year term (even that might be too generous).
If the federal government adopted this blueprint, politicians would have less time to bully the public, and it would cost a little bit less to be a victim of the state.
A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
In the great 1948 film, State of the Union, Katharine Hepburn quips to Adolph Menjou, “You politicians have stayed professionals only because the voters have remained amateurs.” Indeed! If you wish to get rich and quick, look to those in Washington, many of whom have become millionaires feeding at the public trough. Just think about it: After a tough campaign, you can spend a couple of years spouting vacuous buzzwords, pretending to be busy defending liberty and coming up with new methods of fleecing the taxpayers. Ain’t life grand when you’re in politics?
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