Sunday, January 2, 2022

(7)30 Days on Congressional Wage

 In 2005, Morgan Spurlock produced an episode of his 30 Day Series titled "30 Days on Minimum Wage".

The premise was fairly simple - he and his girlfriend had to try to live for thirty days on minimum wage in a place that represented the "average" demographic for the United States. 

They were unable to resort to their bank accounts or credit cards for assistance and ended up in debt at the end of the thirty days.

Although this experiment was a failure in one respect (they were unable to eke out an existence without landing further in debt), it was a success in another respect (it proved that minimum wage was not subsistence level).

However, even more to the point, it provides an interesting basis for something that should be an essential part of reform in our country - our elected officials and their spending habits.

Did you realize that the yearly wage for most (not all) Congressmen and Senators is $174,000?

Not only that, they have approximately 72% of their health insurance paid for by the government, as well as a good portion of their retirement.

They live in a prosperity bubble that most of us only dream about, yet they somehow continue to milk the system for even more perks.

Many of the most prominent politicians come under scrutiny on a regular basis because they manage to increase their net worth while living a lifestyle comparable to celebrities.

Maybe it is time to rein in the riches and refocus our elected officials on the best interests of their constituents, not themselves.

Let's institute some simple rules for our elected officials:

1) You can maintain your current home in your district, but you must rely solely on your Congressional wage to make the payments/utilities for that residence, unless you have a spouse/partner who is allowed to contribute a percentage of those expenses not to exceed their percentage of total household income.

2) You must use your Congressional wage to purchase all groceries and entertainment expenses, both at home and in DC. (Again, a spouse/partner may contribute a percentage of those expenses not to exceed their percentage of total household income while at home, but none in DC. Your spouse/partner was not elected to the office.)

3) As it is necessary to travel to DC and stay there to perform your job, residences will be established with common dining areas, lounges, and exercise facilities - the rooms will be single occupancy with individual bathrooms. If you want anything beyond this, you must be able to afford it with your Congressional wage and no contribution from any outside source.

4) Your travel to and from DC by plane, as needed, will be reimbursed at the cost for economy travel with no "add ons" (upgraded seats, checked bags, exit rows, etc) on airlines that allow one free carry on bag. If you already have a frequent flier account prior to election that allows perks at no taxpayer expense, you may use that. If driving, you will be reimbursed at the standard mileage allowance posted by the IRS. You will not be provided a vehicle at taxpayer expense, and the costs of your personal vehicle and insurance are your responsibility. (The IRS allowance covers reasonable expenses related to personal vehicles.)

5) Your job is representing the American People and your personal constituents. This requires reading and studying all legislation which has been presented. This aspect can be done either at "home" or in DC, but does not include attending any events outside of Congress sponsored by any agency, individual, or corporation.

6) Your job does require attending all sessions of Congress, as well as all meetings of committees to which you have been appointed - this is what you are being paid for. Short of a family emergency or state of emergency in your district, you will not be absent from any of these.

7) You are not being paid to attend parties, galas, or any other functions. Should you choose to do so, you must pay all associated costs (tickets, food/drink, clothing, transportation, preparation) from your Congressional wage with no donations, gifts, or loans from any individual or group.

8) At any time any of your constituents can demand an accounting of all your Congressional expenses and verification of how those were paid, receipt of documentation to be completed within 10 business days.

9) All gifts received during your tenure as a Congressman need to be declared and surrendered to the U.S. GAO (Government Accounting Office) which will then sell or auction the gift and post the proceeds towards reducing the Federal deficit.

10) Your vacations will not be paid for by the taxpayers who elected you (travel expenses, accommodations, meals, entertainment, etc) and you are not to accept gifts of vacations or travel and accommodations from any other individual or group (see rule 9 above). Your vacations will only be taken during recess from Congressional sessions and not be considered an acceptable absence from attendance in Congress or your committee meetings (see rule 6 above). Financing must be done on your Congressional salary, with your spouse/partner able to contribute a percentage of the expenses not to exceed their percentage of household income.

These are all reasonable expectations for our elected officials, which might help start restoring the US Citizenry to faith in their elected officials.

If these rules seem "unfair" or "unreasonable", consider them from the perspective of any job held by a non-elected official who is considered "working class"(not the elites).

It is time to stop complaining about abuses by our elected "representatives" and to start holding them accountable.

These ten rules would be a good start.

No comments: