Jason Chaffetz

Do the unthinkable: double, triple Congressional Salaries

Of all people, conservative retired Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) tossed out the idea that Members of Congress should be given a monthly housing stipend in the amount of $2,500. As “The Hill” reported, “Lawmakers of both parties aren’t endorsing Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s suggestion that they be provided a $30,000-per-year housing stipend — but also say the outgoing lawmaker has a point.”

Remember that Chaffetz is the one who said with regard to health care reform:

And, you know what? Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. So maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest that in health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.

It seems that he has little regard for those people who are struggling to make ends meet; people who need to choose between a now-necessary smartphone and the basic human right of health care coverage. But he is concerned about the expenses that he and others in Congress have when it comes to finding affordable housing in the pricey Washington, DC area.

The Hill further reports:

“Lawmakers acknowledge it’s a nonstarter to try to convince the public that a six-figure salary more than double the median American income isn’t enough. Rank-and-file lawmakers earn $174,000 annually.”

$174,000 is an excellent salary for most Americans, but by some definitions, it is still below the top range of middle income. It is reasonable for Americans to want representatives who can focus on doing their jobs rather than worrying about making ends meet. Being a Member of Congress often means having two homes, one in their home district or state and the other in the Washington, DC area. The annual salary is high when compared to the median income of Americans ($52,000), but it is not high enough that Members and their families do not have to worry about meeting expenses.

Chaffetz’s suggestion can serve as the opening round of a discussion of how much Members of Congress should be paid so that they are without financial worries and are free to focus on doing the “people’s business.”

The flip side of the argument includes factors such as (a) Members of Congress really don’t work that hard [they are scheduled to be in session in Washington only 133 days in 2017], and (b) they are not particularly good at their jobs [witness gridlock while the fabric of the New Deal and Great Society is unraveling].

So, here’s a proposed compromise:

  1. Raise Congressional salaries to $500,000 (and while you’re at it, do the same for the President and other top-ranking officials in both the executive and judicial branches of government). In the larger scheme of things, this won’t cost much and it will probably result in savings because it will cut down on government mismanagement, waste and fraud.
  2. In order to justify these raises:
    1. Congress pass legislation ensuring that all Americans receive the quality of affordable and comprehensive health care that they do. This means Medicare for All.
    2. Congress initiate a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and follow that with comprehensive campaign finance reform which puts in place exclusive public financing for all federal elections.
    3. Relieved of the time constraints of fund-raising, Members of Congress must work at least 200 days per calendar year. This includes extensive committee work, and no bill with a cost of $2 billion or more can be considered on the floor of a chamber without proper open committee hearings (exactly what Republicans have not done in either the House or the Senate with the “repeal and replace” bills on health care.).
    4. There be a life-time ban on Members of Congress and members of their families being paid lobbyists. There are plenty of other less-sleazy ways for former Members to cash in following their tenures in Congress.

It’s a “hot rail;” a “third rail of politics” for Members of Congress to suggest raising their pay. But truth be told, when they are doing their jobs, they deserve far more money than they currently are legally making. But the pay increases must come hand-in-hand with reform that will save money and bring about more responsible government.