Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why are we paying multi-millionaires to serve in Congress?

Congressional leaders have begun acclimating voters to “means-testing” Medicare and Social Security. It’s a bipartisan conspiracy to set us up for the inevitable.

The Senate’s number two Democrat, Richard Durbin said, “I think (means testing is) reasonable and consistent with my view that our taxes as well as our programs should be progressive.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) said he considers Medicare means testing “somewhat attractive.”  

In the past, both senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso have voted for applying means testing to Medicare.  House Speaker John Boehner is willing to apply the concept to social security.  "If you have substantial non-Social Security income while you're retired,” Boehner said, “why are we paying you at a time when we're broke?"

Those who paid into these programs should ask Boehner and the others, "If you have substantial outside income while you're a member of Congress, why are we paying you at a time when we're broke?"

Why are we paying salaries to multi-millionaires so they can serve in Congress? If means testing makes such good sense for the elderly, why isn’t what’s good for the goose not also good for the gander?

Seriously. These folks refer to themselves as “public servants.” But the net worth of the “public” they claim to “serve” dropped 8 percent during the past six years, while the “public servants” in Congress got, on average, 15 percent richer, according to a New York Times analysis of financial disclosure.  Their net worth is $913,000, compared with about $100,000 for the country at large. Most are richer now than when they were first elected. Almost half of them are millionaires, while only 5 percent of us can say the same.

Cynthia Lummis’ 2010 disclosure reported her net worth between $5.5 and $24 million, ranking her 29th richest member of the U.S. House.

Lummis’ reported wealth exceeds that of both Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi. The Center for Responsive Politics ranked them as the 34th and 66th wealthiest senators, respectively. 2010 statements filed with the Senate clerk show Barrasso's net worth between $2.7 and $8.7 million. Enzi is a piker at between $440,067 to $1,878,000. 

Compare their numbers to yours. The median 2010 Wyoming income was $51, 371, down nearly 5% over the last three years. The 30 wealthiest members of Congress report a combined total of more than one-and-a-third billion dollars in assets, greater than the total GNP of 57 sovereign countries.

And they want to means test the rest of us? Plans to do so are gaining steam in Congress. David John of the Heritage Foundation says one plan under consideration targets individual retirees with more than $55,000 of non-Social Security retirement income. Their monthly benefits would be reduced 1.8% for every $1,000 income over $55,000. Non-Social Security retirement incomes of $65,000, would see an 18% reduction. Retirees with income over $110,000 would receive no Social Security benefits.
Why not apply the same notion to those who want to apply it to us? Why should, for example, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) who is worth $355 million be paid another $174,000 per year by taxpayers, using John Boehner’s words, “at a time when we're broke?" Ask the same question of Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) whose worth is $101.9 million, or Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) at $88.5 million, or Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), $83.8 million, or Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), $76.6 million.

Why should taxpayers pay $174,000 to Rep. Lummis who is worth as much as 24 million dollars?  By the time you get down the list to Barrasso at $2.7 and $8.7 million or Enzi’s at between $440,067 to $1,878,000, the law could provide the same scale as congress now imposes on social security recipients under 66. For every dollar net worth over, say 5 million, they’d lose one dollar in congressional salary.

Seems like a reasonable sacrifice for those who say we need to sacrifice. But to jumble an old adage, “them that makes the rules get the gold.”

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