Diary

Rep. Paul Tonko: "People commit to an industry"

YNN has a good video segment and article about the recent NY Daily News piece discussing Democrat incumbent Paul Tonko (NY-21) being a double dipper (in fact, the TOP double dipper among NY’s US House delegation).

In the video, Tonko says he earned the pension for years of service and that people “commit to an industry.” Mr. Tonko’s ‘commitment’ was to be a career politician running repeatedly as an incumbent, feeding off the taxpayers. He has won every election. Nobody asked him to do this; he chose to do this. He was there to represent the people. He was there to serve the people. He was not there to create a career for himself.

It is disingenuous for Mr. Tonko as a career politician to basically compare this to a situation such as, for example, a person who spent their career working at General Electric or some other large company. It is also far different from someone like his opponent Ted Danz, who committed to the heating and air conditioning industry and built a successful business employing people with private funds, taking all the risk.

In Tonko’s case, to “commit to an industry,” one must be privileged enough to happen to be the incumbent in an area that largely votes for your party. This is a position very few New Yorkers happen to be in. Only a member of the elite political class of career politicians — like Mr. Tonko — have that opportunity. Mr. Tonko basically had a guaranteed job (at least until people started waking up) with the New York State Assembly for as long as he wanted it. Most people do NOT have guaranteed jobs like Tonko. Tonko’s comment betrays his arrogance.

There is typically an opposition candidate vying for an elected office. There could even be someone in the same party looking to run, but cannot afford to primary or chooses not to do so. The Founding Fathers believed in rotation in office. Political office was never meant to be a career or a livelihood on the backs of the taxpayers as Mr. Tonko seems to imply with his comment. To even say such a thing shows how out of touch the man happens to be.

There is nothing illegal about a career politician in a fiscally underwater state such as New York collecting a fabulous pension and then going on to Congress to earn nearly $200,000/yr. There is nothing illegal about displaying no manners, being egotistical, self-centered, etc. Just because it is legal does not mean it is right, however. Tonko’s opponent noted that he believes a pension should be for someone who is actually retired. Danz also pointed out that the amount Tonko receives ($64,000) is more than a lot of working people earn in a year. Tonko gets his because of the power of incumbency.

To continue to run election after election and then ride off into the sunset to get a higher paying job at taxpayer expense while also collecting a taxpayer funded retirement is simply wrong, particularly when New York State happens to be in such a fiscal crisis. Mr. Tonko should do the right thing and reject his taxpayer funded retirement while serving in Congress at taxpayer expense.

Perhaps new elected officials (since the existing career politicians would say they’re grandfathered in) should not receive a retirement. That might be one way to achieve voluntary term limits. We could also gauge how much they’re in it for the people and how much they’re in it for themselves.