Diary

If We Are 'All In This Together', Why Haven't Congress, et al., Given Up Salaries En Masse?

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You can’t turn on the TV now without some condescending advertisement–paid for with tax dollars no doubt–reminding you:

WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Did you roll your eyes? Many people are now reporting reflexive eye-rolling when this slogan thuds into their visual cortex. It has become a conditioned response. So has yelling “Bull***t!” at the TV–a sort of COVID-19-induced Tourette’s Syndrome.

Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and struggling to pay bills and rent. If we are “all in this together”, it seems like our fearless leaders would signal their ‘togetherness’ by at least appearing to shoulder some of the hardship.

So why haven’t Congress, governors, and mayors–along with other lawmakers and executives across the nation’s governments–banded together to forego their salaries and put them toward some sort of relief effort?

As far as Congress goes, it doesn’t look as though the loss of their salaries would affect them much. As Roll Call reports in 2018:

[T]he median minimum net worth (meaning half are worth more, half less) of today’s senators and House members was $511,000 at the start of this Congress, an upward push of 16 percent over just two years — and quintuple the median net worth of an American household, which the Federal Reserve pegged at $97,300 in 2016.

The financial disparity between those who try to govern and those who are governed is almost certainly even greater than that.

Members of Congress are not required to make public the value of their residences and their contents, which are the principal assets of most Americans. Nor are they required to reveal their other assets and debts to the penny, or even close — instead using 11 broad categories of value (starting at less than $1,000 and topping out at $50 million or more) that do a comprehensive job of obscuring what each member is precisely worth.

Congress’s jiggering of the rules obfuscates what they have and makes exact calculations difficult; but what we can say for sure is that Congress is stuffed to the galleries with millionaires. Losing a year’s salary that hovers in the neighborhood of $180,000 shouldn’t pinch much, if at all.

And those congresspersons who DO get pinched by the loss of their salary would REALLY signal their ‘togetherness’ with the hoi polloi. They would be just like them: debts to pay and no income. What a predicament! The Ross Dress For Less in Washington, DC might suddenly find itself with quite the clientele.

Oh, the breath holding! Congress with surely get around to this out-of-pocket relief effort soon. It’s a busy time. They have to finish disbursing trillions of other people’s money first and running up the collective debt. That, and authorizing dumb TV commercials to convince the public that the government’s wrong actions are the right actions.