Bloomsbury Coffee House
Let's talk compensation for our elected representatives.
Needless to say, I think our reps should not be getting paid during the shutdown. I think I can accept them getting back-pay, but definitely no checks for them while they are withholding paychecks from other people. But while we're on the subject of their paychecks, let's just settle what that amount ought to be.
How do we determine what is fair compensation? There is no real private sector equivalent to a congressman (and we will just not go into all the other things we can equate a congressman to). Some have said they should make minimum wage, or some derivative of that (no more than double the minimum, for example). But I think it's pretty fair to say that a minimum wage job isn't equivalent in responsibility and consequence to that of an elected official's. It's worth adding that that does not make either worker superior or inferior to the other (just sayin').
Some people put forth a specific amount for compensation (as it is now), extrapolated from current values within the economy. But that criteria is pretty subjective, and that amount would naturally need to be adjusted as costs adjust. And, as I am against minimum wage being tied to votes, I would be against rep pay being tied to votes, and for the same reasons. Whatever the criteria by which we set their pay, their pay should move as the economy moves and be self-adjusting, as minimum wage should be.
So what's fair? I say, if they are representing us, they should make what we make. Any representative should receive whatever is the median income of their constituents. All the way up to the White House.
Yes, I think the "Leader of the Free World" should make about 40 grand a year.
Naturally, there would be other forms of their compensation - company healthcare, company car (or company "Air Force One"), pensions, etc. And representatives do have to maintain more than one residence - in their home districts and in their governing cities. There would be expected traveling expenses going back and forth. It would be reasonable to cover some of those costs to allow our representatives to fulfill the obligations of their jobs. Within limits.
But when it comes to the actual paycheck, why should our public servants receive such vastly higher pay than their employers - us? Shouldn't they have some skin in the game? The truth is that most of these people are already rich. You nearly have to be in order to run for office nowadays. Which begs two conclusions. First: if they're already rich, then why do they need more money? Second: we need to implement some other reforms while we're at it, so that people who are actually more representative of us are able to be elected to represent us.
A couple thoughts...
First, term limits. You can be re-elected once to the same job. Maybe you can sit out a term (or two) and come back. But to serve 30, 40, 50 years, in a job with a two-year term? That's just not a healthy relationship for either of us, and we both need to move on.
Next - money. Everybody seems to talk about how horrible is the influence of money in our elections. How many people actually put forth any real reforms to fix that? Public matching funds are one fix that might make a little difference, but they don't fix the main driver of increasing election costs. It's the advertising, people. Buying television ads are incredibly costly to campaigns and they are the worst source of information for voters. But they sure are effective for the well-funded campaigns, and who wants to give up that advantage?
If we were to restrict or eliminate political television ads, the costs needed to wage political warfare would be reduced, and that would make the playing field just that much more level. Much of the political messaging gets out through other, less costly, means anyway (internet ads, news proxies). But we could still make efforts to give equal quality exposure to more candidates. Perhaps a series of 30-minute prime-time informative spots donated via public television. Or something. But in the age of the internet and hyper-social media, we can better serve both candidates and voters by moving away from the TV.
Oh, and I think most of us can agree that money is not speech. Can we just pass that language so the judiciary is no longer confused on this point?
I could go on (and on) but I'm getting distracted and running out of coffee. I think that will do for today.