One need not look far when seeking examples of hypocrisy in Congress. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that New York’s socialist darling, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, found it during the orientation process. As one of a handful of progressives taking their seats in January, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has made Medicare for All a central tenet of her platform. As one might imagine, she was appalled to find how little those in Congress – many of whom reject socialized health care legislation – have to pay for their medical coverage. But here’s what might shock some: She’s right.
What’s Good for the Goose …
Monthly premiums for the insurance plans in the gold tier on the DC marketplace averaged between $464.19 for 30-year-olds to $1,109.14 for 60-year-olds in 2017. Should members of Congress and select staffers choose one of these options, the federal government – that is, the American taxpayer – will cover 72% of it, or between $327.02 and $798.58 a month.
We need to pour out what’s already there.
Does gold tier coverage for as little as $127.17 a month sound like a sweet deal? Then you’ll love being able to pay that straight out of your paycheck pre-tax, or the option to set aside more of your salary in Flex 125 plans to help pay for your remaining medical costs and childcare – also with pre-tax dollars.
Does it seem a bit hypocritical for someone receiving such benefits on the public dole to vote against socialized health care for everyone else? Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) certainly thinks so:
In my on-boarding to Congress, I get to pick my insurance plan.
As a waitress, I had to pay more than TWICE what I’d pay as a member of Congress.
It’s frustrating that Congressmembers would deny other people affordability that they themselves enjoy. Time for #MedicareForAll.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 1, 2018
You might point out that such coverage isn’t exactly unheard of in the private sector. You’d be correct. Congress gets a good deal, there’s no doubt about it, but many companies across the nation offer relatively inexpensive coverage as a benefit. I can recall two separate factory jobs that weren’t far off, and I was hardly in the executive suite. One offered comparable coverage for slightly less than twice as much a month – which came out of my check pre-tax, of course. The other didn’t have as comprehensive a plan, but it was paid for entirely by the company.
The difference, of course, is that corporations offering such benefits operate in the more or less free market and tend to be profitable in their own right, without taxing the earnings of others. They dip into profits just a bit to boost benefit packages to entice workers.
Half-Full, Half-Empty, or Half-Assed?
Congress does not turn a profit; it is entirely tax funded. The baseline congressional salary is $174,000 per year, with the speaker of the House bringing in $223,500 and minority and majority leaders of both chambers, along with the president pro tempore, getting $193,400. In 2017, Congress was in session for 145 days. That’s an average of $1,200 a day per person – paid to a body that, more often than not, tends to be most beneficial to the people when they aren’t working.
If we add up just salary and insurance premium coverage – not any other benefit – we’re paying 535 people somewhere between $95,232,869 and $98,260,283 each year. Of course, determining where exactly in that range the true total falls requires factoring in the age of 535 different people and finding out what their specific premiums are. Suffice it to say they make too damned much for all the good they do anyone.
But the answer isn’t to extend that tax-funded “savings” to 325,699,465 other people – we already can’t cover the federal spending as it is! Leave it to a progressive to look at a problem like this as the glass being half full. It isn’t. We don’t need to fill that cup the rest of the way with tax dollars. We need to pour out what’s already there. Let the members of Congress and other federal employees have their “employer-paid” health care when they stop being a drain on the American taxpayer and begin turning a profit.