November 19, 2011

Why Giffords' Congressional pay cut idea isn't good.

Tina Korbe at Hot Air has some praise for a Gabriel Giffords idea to lower congressional pay. Too bad it's not really a good idea.

Why isn't this is a good idea?
Look over here.
Just days before the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson that forever changed her life, Rep. Gabby Giffords introduced legislation to cut the salaries of members of Congress by five percent. Now, as the 12 members of the Super Committee struggle to adequately reduce the nation’s borrowing to avoid the sequestration triggers, her staffers have made a point to remind them of Giffords’ idea to slash congressional pay.

Her office corralled 25 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle (11 Republicans and 14 Democrats) to write a letter to the committee, urging them to consider Giffords’ proposal as yet one more way to reduce spending.

It’s a common-sense suggestion that would save $50 million over the next 10 years. Take the idea a step further and reduce Congressional compensation by 10 percent … and those savings increase to $100 million.
There's a number of reasons.  First let's start with the good points though.  As Tina points out, Congress is relatively overpaid and it can attract people who are only or mostly interested in the money.  Lowering that pay would negate at least some of that. Secondly it's a step in the right direction as far as reducing government costs rather than raising them.  Thirdly it sets a good example for other government employees.

So again, why is this bad?  Let's flip some of those positives on their heads.  Firstly, I'm suspicious when a liberal wants to lower congressional pay.  If you start on the path of lowering congressional pay, will those reductions continue?  At what point do you stop attracting talent and start appealing only to socialist zealots who don't care about pay and only about influencing policy?  At $20,000 per years who would want to work in Congress?  Those who want to shape and form policy and don't take profit into consideration.

Another problem I have with it is the fact that it amounts to peanuts in the bigger picture and it serves to give Congress some political points for making a small move simply because it appears big. If they are that overpaid, a 5% or even 10% cut isn't much of a sacrifice.  Nevertheless, a lot of congressional representatives might get a re-election out of a show of voting themselves a pay decrease.  It might go a long way to overcoming a vote for Obamacare.

Why else is it a bad idea?  It's a distraction.  It does not address the root problems of unfunded liabilities, or deficit spending.  It's a drop in the bucket.  Real reform is needed, not window dressing.  What it is also not addressed is a wall between special interests and the self interests of Congressional representatives.  That's where ill-advised spending comes from.  Self interest doesn't work with government the way it does with the Invisible Hand.  In power, self-interest doesn't work to the benefit of everyone the way it does in the open market.

I'm sure most everyone is in favor of congressional pay cuts - liberals see it as some of the rich being selfless and conservatives see it as cost cutting, however modest..  But it's a disguised version of class warfare, combined with a distraction from the fiscal events of the last few years.  For those reasons, the costs of the savings outweigh the gains


  1. I don't see how your first point is a reason against lowering congressional pay.

    "At $20,000 per years who would want to work in Congress? Those who want to shape and form policy and don't take profit into consideration."

    First of all, 20,000 a year is a little extreme. Second of all, the people that would want to work in that congress ARE the ones concerned with policy and do not worry about profit. These are the people that are participating in government not for the money but because they likely see it as a necessity and a duty, not a career. At 20,000, ambition can only go so far as one is unlikely to run for multiple terms at such a low rate of pay.

    And I respectfully disagree that something like this is a distraction. I believe with that the bipartisanship, the lack of cooperation, and the dawdling in congress has everything to do with the attitude that politics is a career. How do you fix that? Establish term limits and lower congressional pay. Eventually, the right minds are attracted. How can this happen? If the people are loud enough, work can be done in congress.

    Lastly, it may be a drop in the bucket, but it is a big, and bold statement to make. A waste of time to you is an investment in the future state of congress to me.

  2. Thanks for the comments Matt.

    I was deliberately extreme with $20,000 to illustrate the point - at that price you'll get progressive zealots, not people who understand the value of money. The phrase you get what you pay for is apt.

    Can you not rid yourself of career politicians with term limits and avoid the pay decrease? What value does that add to your objective?

    I agree with your last point that it does send a signal, one that the Congress is serious. But when the suggestion comes from Democrats, I tend to question the motives behind it. I'm not convinced that their motives are as altruistic as they represent them to be.

    1. Thank you for your response!

      I frequently use extreme examples as well to prove points, but in this case it doesn't work as such a low estimate would not happen. School teachers make more than that. Yes, I concede that if term limits are established, that might make lowering congressional pay unnecessary, but I still believe that the more meager the salary (to a point) the more driven the politicians. The best representatives of the people in this country are not people making over 100,000 a year.

      If a job is relatively unappealing (I'll be unemployed in 6 years, I'm only making 60-70 grand a year) those that attempt it are less motivated by either factor and more motivated by progression, which I see as a good thing when used in moderation, it's an idea we've been stuck with since the enlightenment.

      Believe me, I don't consider myself republican or democrat...I'm not a fan of where this country has gone with political parties...mostly the fault of media, but I won't get into that.

      Democrats preaching this are indeed making others look bad. Certainly their motives are less altruistic. They'll be getting votes out of this.


Disagreement is always welcome. Please remain civil. Vulgar or disrespectful comments towards anyone will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Share This