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Talking Points Memo reveals yet another sign of Republican hypocrisy on the issue of public employee wages. Republican Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin's 7th district said his $174,000 paycheck was a "Struggle" to live on.

"I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I'm living high on the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I'm not living high on the hog."

This he said to a constituent who was earning far less on his bus driver salary and that of his wife, a teacher facing a pay cut. The average household income of Polk County, Wisconsin is $50,520.

Duffy continues to try and downplay the level of benefits of the federal government, despite having guaranteed health care and a retirement plan that matches contributions up to 5% (or an additional $8700 on a Congressional salary). Duffy speaks up Governor Walker's demands on public employees, and says he is open to cutting his own pay if everyone else takes a pay cut as well. Worse, he plays down the high salary by saying that he didn't vote for it, as if that excuses a sacrifice.

Duffy feels entitled to his pay, yet doesn't believe that his constituents should want to defend their salary or that he, as an elected leader, should take the first cut. This sort of attitude, from a someone making three times the wage of his constituents, is one reason why we cannot expect lawmakers to serve the cause of the working class.

A change should be made, starting in the states, to put politician pay in line with their constituents. Only when Congressmen have to live within the means of their constituents can we expect them to vote the interest of their constituents. As it stands 10 states have full time legislatures with an average annual compensation of $68,599. The other 40 states use various part time methods. Congress members get $174,000 a year.

I think a series of referendums or constitutional amendments should be passed in the states to limit state legislator and governor pay to the median household wage of the state in which they serve. The adjustments should be made annually, up or down, depending on the fortunes and policies of the states.

This would serve the progressive cause because legislators would have to recognize that in order to earn a pay increase, they have to raise the wages of those at the bottom rather than pay out to their corporate cronies at the top.

Unions would benefit greatly, as legislators would have to recognize that union jobs pay 20% more in wages and 28% more when benefits are factored in. Non-union workers get a bump if they are in highly unionized industries. Politicians can't scapegoat public sector workers and wages without in some way cutting down their own wages. Right-to-work legislation, which cost workers an average $5,333, will no longer have the appeal it does to conservative legislators.

On the Congressional level, salary should be based on the national median wage. Representatives and Senators debating tax cuts, unemployment benefits and federal employees wages will have their income tied to the outcome of their own legislation. If they want to maintain a good wage, they must consider the impact on the average voter. If passed, I imagine much more time will go into studying the impact on free trade agreements and a fairer trade will become the new normal in international commerce discussion.

There is a precedent for establishing legislator pay rules in the Constitution. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment, barring any Congress from raising it's own pay until the next Congressional session, has limited the ability of the body to lift it's own pay in the short term. A new amendment, replicated in the states as well, should bind our representatives to the consequences of their actions.

Originally posted to PhilipMoon on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:14 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Progressive Hippie.

Poll

Should Legislator Pay Be Tied to The Median Wage of Constituents

76%26 votes
11%4 votes
2%1 votes
8%3 votes

| 34 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

    •  Tipped and recc'd for an interesting idea. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nswalls, Marjmar

      I might not agree with it 100% but I can definitely see it being a good starting point for a debate on reforming legislative pay scales!

      Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything. -Harry S. Truman / -8.00, -6.77

      by Shadowmage36 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:59:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Duffy is a dick, but I disagree with your premise. (5+ / 0-)

    Take your average professional who's got kids in school.  They might still be paying off student loans.  Should they have to take a pay cut to represent their district?  

    If that happens, only the moneyed will run for office.  (OK, it's mostly them now, but we at least have to give others a chance!)

    Still, Duffy should be able to get by on $174,000.

  •  They don't do it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shadowmage36

    for the salary--try maintaining two households, one of which is in a high-cost area miles from your home, on Congressional pay. It's not as generous as it first seems.

    No, they do it for the chance to get rich. Take a look at any member who has served for a few terms. They all come out richer than they went in. At the least, they can expect a six figure job doing very little with some lobbying firm or think tank.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:34:00 AM PDT

  •  Your idea has the added benefit of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marjmar

    hitting Republican legislators harder than Democratic ones! All those "good old boys" will now have to live on 1/3 to 1/4 of their old salaries. Maybe they'll understand why the affluent states by, and large, elect Democrats and not Republicans. (Or not.)

  •  agree for states, disagree for feds (0+ / 0-)

    Being a US Congressperson or Senator is a full time job - really more than one full time job.  They work around the clock, all week and weekend.

    They should be adequately compensated so that middle class professionals and others, and not just millionaires and billionaires, can run for and hold office.

    But at the state level I am totally with you, since it is a part time job usually.

    And as for this asshole:

    "I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I'm living high on the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I'm not living high on the hog."

    How about not having 6 kids? Don't breed 'em if you can't feed 'em.
  •  It sounds good but would be counterproductive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    redlum jak, Ponder Stibbons, Marjmar

    While it would be nice to not have obnoxious politicians gripe about money, lowering the pay would have the effect of allowing only the already wealthy to run for office. It is like a big city police department. The most corruption comes from the departments who try to police the richest, usually vice and white collar. If you don't pay the police enough, and the crooks can pay them more the system is captured. Paying politicians more makes it more attractive to middle class people to become politicians. It also reduces the power of lobbyists because it is harder to bribe the wealthy. None of this actually solves the problem, only transparency and higher taxes seem to work. It is a real problem that we are represented only by those who are significantly wealthier than average however.

    •  Yup - the less we pay our politicians, the more (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marjmar

      they're susceptible to graft. Historically, I'm pretty sure that corruption has increased when they've gone a while without adjusting their salaries to compensate for inflation.

      They tortured people to get false confessions to fraudulently justify our invading Iraq.

      by Ponder Stibbons on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 10:29:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tie to median? Ooh, that's so mean. (0+ / 0-)

    Yes, I'm being cutesy, but I'd like to emphasis the importance of the difference.  If 98% of the population nets 50% of the income, with the other half going to the top 2%, then the mean is going to be much higher than the median, and there would be much less incentive to reduce the disparity between the rich and the rest.

    I don't expect your proposal to ever take place, but I especially like its framing, which serves to highlight the wealth disparity much better than use of an average would.  Well done.

    I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

    by tle on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 11:16:06 AM PDT

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