Imagine a private sector employee approaching his boss and asking for a raise. The boss rightfully asks why the employee needs one, and what he has done to deserve it. It’s not a horrible set of questions to ask as both parties have a vested interest in getting as much money as they can.
However, instead of listing off the achievements and contributions to the company as the reason they should get a pay raise, the employee begins telling the boss that he hasn’t done anything worth giving him a raise for, it’s just that the cost of living is rising and his pay has “stagnated.” The boss tells the private sector employee that his salary is already bloated as it is.
In response, the employee says that if the boss doesn’t give them a pay raise, then they’ll go and accept bribes from outside sources that wish to influence the boss’s company. Essentially, at this point, the employee is telling the boss that he must bribe the employee to not be bribed by other businesses.
In the private sector, this employee would be fired immediately, and rightfully so. However, when this kind of talk goes down in the public sector, there is no firing. In fact, they very well just might get that raise. According to public sector employees and administrations, problems that arise are usually the result of not having enough money to throw around.
Oddly enough, we continue to give them more money and the problems still continue, but I digress.
Congressional Democrats recently approached the idea to give themselves raises, with figures like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arguing that doing so would prevent politicians from becoming corrupted by bribes.
According to Politico, they almost went for it, but then certain Democrats in swing districts reminded everyone that giving yourself a raise isn’t exactly a good look, especially with elections fast approaching:
Several Democrats in battleground seats have scrambled behind the scenes to convince Democratic leaders, including Hoyer, to backtrack on the decision. Several have personally approached Hoyer to protest the move after he and other party leaders agreed to the cost-of-living-increase. It would amount to an extra $4,500 for members, who currently make $174,000.
Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) — who sits in a district that Trump carried by more than six points — warned Hoyer on the floor last week that the move would be bad politics and bad policy, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the discussions.
Cunningham later authored his own amendment to halt the pay increase. Similar amendments were also drafted by freshman Democrats like Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) — whose district leans Republican by 12 points, and Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) — whose district favors Republicans by six points.
Even Democratic pollsters were warning Democrats away from the idea in light of the upcoming election, like the president of Global Strategy Group Jefrey Pollock, who called the raises “problematic.”
“It feels like a potential ready-made attack ad,” Pollock told Politico.
He’s not wrong. According to the Daily Caller, the average rank and file member of Congress makes $174,000 annually, which puts congressional members in the top five percent of the highest paid Americans. Add to the fact that the benefits they receive equal out to around $286,000.
Even their retirement benefits are top tier according to the Caller:
In addition to paid time off and U.S. taxpayer contributions toward the health and life insurance plans, members of Congress receive contributions toward retirement benefits as well. These contributions equal around 47 percent of their annual salaries, or about $82,000. In contrast, typical employees in the private sector are eligible only for a 401(k) type pension plan and do not qualify for retirement health coverage. Thus, Congressional pensions are considerably more generous than those offered to private sector employees.
Congress hasn’t received a pay raise since 2009, and according to the Congressional Research Service and since then inflation has taken its toll, bringing down the value of congressional salaries by 15 percent. To that end, I say that this isn’t a bad thing at all. Congressional members live a Cadillac life few get to have and perhaps it’s time that they are forced to budget themselves like the rest of us.
Maybe it’ll teach them how to budget our own government better, though I’m not holding my breath.
Congressional members forget that they’re there to serve the country, not reap benefits that serve themselves. It’s time they remember that.