Guest post by Ken Lambert
A term, and job, most Americans despise is “career politician”. These are men and women who have spent most or all of their adult working life within politics and public “service”. Generally, the typical voter views these eternal bureaucrats as power-hungry, corrupt, lazy, sneaky, snobbish, incompetent, and a myriad of other adjectives not appropriate for Eagle Rising.
Over the decades since the earliest Congress, more and more people are electing to be in power positions within the federal and state governments, on a full-time basis. The pay, and of course the perks, have risen substantially since the early days of the U.S.
In 1815, adjusted for 2014 inflation and dollars, the annual salary of a U.S. Representative was $19,085. Researching wages in the early 1800’s is very difficult, but let’s assume that was roughly 50% of an average annual salary or wage. This was likely because it was determined that being a U.S. Representative was a Part-time job.
Today, the Representative salary is $174,000! The average salary across the country in 2015 is roughly $45,000, meaning that in 2016 Representatives make 386% of the average American worker. Most people will never earn close to the salary of a Representative; why has this obscene increase been allowed?
Simple answer: the Congress votes for their own pay, and pay raises. If it was allowed in your private sector company, most likely you would vote to give yourself a raise, as well. It is human nature (greed). That said, the answer is we must end this practice. Either a majority of state legislatures must approve of any Congressional pay raises OR Representatives’ pay should be indexed to the average annual US salary. Perhaps it is reasonable to give a salary of $90,000/ year- which is DOUBLE the typical American. That seems fair, and it would actually get rid of some of the “lifers” in DC.
The other way to get rid of DC career politicians is to mandate term limits. This is not a new issue; it has been brought up for decades now. If the position is so posh, the Representatives and Senators will not merely walk away on their own accord. We, the people, have to formally prevent them from settling into their chamber for 20- 40 years.
An example would be: Senators have a 12 year term limit, and Representatives have an 8 year term limit. This should be something that can be agreed on, as some Reps that end their 8 year run can then run for the Senate and extend their “public service”. However this new Constitutional Amendment would go a long way in undermining the lifer Congressman.
Most Americans want variety in their elected representatives, especially recently with the dismal Congressional approval rating. The variety, with different professional backgrounds, cannot happen with so many career politicians. In the first US Congress, there was 5.5% of the lot deemed to be longstanding public service folks, or statesmen.Today, more than 50% of our Congress are career politicians. Most of these men and women have never held a “real”, private sector job since high school or college. The disconnect with normal Americans is very evident, and a hindrance to proper job performance.
On a related note, many people say that there are too many lawyers in our Congress. Personally I would agree, but in researching that fact over the years, the percentage of lawyers within the Congress has remained nearly identical since the early days of the Republic. Roughly 37% of our Congress are (or were) professional lawyers. This status is not likely to change, but if we can deter career politicians we will open up these positions for other people with other skill sets and viewpoints, like doctors, farmers, accountants, teachers, police officers, etc. And yes, maybe another Joe the Plumber.
In a broader sense, having career politicians helps to create a ruling class of people, even though most of those persons are elected into position. Elections and PAC’s and campaigns is another conversation and article, but nobody wins when one person holds a seat for 25 years, except that person and possibly some lobbyists. The American people do not win. It’s time to do something about that.
Cross-posted with permission from Eagle Rising.