Benjamin Franklin might have been lynched if he showed up in Congress today. He thought federal officeholders should serve their country without pay. But people protested that it would mean only the rich and the corrupt could afford to serve their nation.
So we started paying our lawmakers.
What we forgot is that no matter how much some people get, they always want more. Congressmen have an easy time persuading themselves they need more. They make $165,000 a year, which sounds like a lot . . . but they have to maintain two homes, one back in their district, and one in Washington. Throw in the fact that they are likely to have kids of college age. Then consider that they are always being hit up for campaign donations. Poor devils.
Yet they do get a lot of perks. Free offices. Free staff. Free life insurance, and an awesome retirement plan. Congressmen get virtually unlimited free mailing privileges, other expense accounts, and thirty-two fully reimbursed round trips home every year.
Naturally, they abuse the system anyway. Do you think the taxpayers should pay for Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick to drive a Cadillac Deville around the area she represents, which is the state’s poorest and physically smallest congressional district?
How about cases where outside interests pay for congressional junkets? If I sent a woman three dozen roses and offered to take her on a cruise on my non-existent yacht, do you suppose she would think I had an ulterior motive, or do you think she would suspect I wanted to discuss the effects of the Single Business Tax?
Congressman Candice Miller and her husband got a free four-day trip to Key Biscayne, Florida in January, paid for by the Ripon Society. That doesn’t sound so bad at first. The Ripon Society is a Republican think tank that promotes moderate ideas.
But dig a little deeper and you learn that these days, the Ripon Society is known in Washington as a “travel agency for lobbyists.”
Lobbyists – I don’t know which ones – paid for Candice’s junket. Now it is possible they only wanted to fly her down there because her blonde hair looks nice against the sand. But being nasty and cynical, I suspect they wanted her eventual vote on some bill or bills. If it has feathers and quacks, it probably ain’t the Virgin Mary.
Here’s what we need to do.
Ban any third-party payment of congressional travel. Then set up a bipartisan body to approve virtually any legitimate travel request by a congressman who wants to investigate something, or go to a conference, especially if it has anything to do with their committee assignments or anything happening in their district.
Give every member a car allowance tied to the physical size of his or her district, and then let them figure out what to lease.If we don’t want a congress of pigs, here’s a thought.
Let’s take away the trough.