It's official. Now I've heard everything.
And I do mean everything.
There is, quite literally, nothing on God's Green Earth that I have not heard. You name it, I have now heard it.
Four days ago, I couldn't have said that. Four days ago, there was this one last little thing I hadn't heard. But then -- go figure -- just this past week I heard it. So yeah, I've heard it ALL now.
What exactly was this final thing on my bucket list of insanely unexpected statements? Just this bizarre combination of seven words: "Members of Congress are overworked and underpaid."
You heard that right, folks. Overworked, underpaid, Congress.
That bit of wisdom came from an opinion piece last week by some tool named Daniel Schuman, who is policy counsel with something called the Sunlight Foundation and a former legislative attorney with the Congressional Research Service. In other words, a lawyer. Gee, and we wonder why some of us hold that profession in such contempt.
Schuman's brilliant conclusion -- which ran on the opinion page of the Standard-Examiner and, I assume, a number of other newspapers -- was that "Congress needs a big fat pay raise." Right now, the average salary in Congress is $174,000 a year. Adjusting for inflation, Schuman says members of Congress should be making $214,00 to equal what they were making back in 1992. That's a hefty $43,000 raise.
And just out of curiosity, how are the rest of you doing right now with that whole "adjusted for inflation" thing? Keeping up with the Sen. Joneses, are we? That's what I thought.
Schuman implies that the gridlock in Washington right now is the result of "petty bickering and political posturing." Well, duh. But he also claims the petty bickering and political posturing is because -- Warning! Logical leap ahead! -- we don't pay members of Congress enough.
Hardly. You want to know why there's petty bickering and political posturing in Congress? I'll tell you why. There's petty bickering and political posturing because, as it turns out, the majority in Congress are ... wait for it ... petty, bickering, posturing politicians. And sorry, but money -- or, more specifically, the lack thereof -- didn't make them that way.
Pay raises? For Congress? Talk about enabling dysfunctional behavior. Frankly, in the inventory of World's Worst Ideas, big fat pay raises for Congress is right up there with "What can it hurt to send a few military advisers to Southeast Asia?"
We can't even live within our means as a goverment, and some lawyer thinks the answer is to significantly raise the salaries of the very people who, if they didn't actually break the system, have done nothing to show they're the least bit interested in fixing it? One can't help but wonder what color the sky is on this guy's planet.
One of Shuman's arguments is that when a member of Congress "retires," he or she often becomes a lobbyist whose salary jumps to between $700,000 and $1 million. (Memo to self: Look into becoming lobbyist.) And we think a $43,000 raise is going to keep these folks from jumping to the private sector? Even if you immediately doubled Congressional salaries to $340,000, politicians are still going to get another half million or more to become a lobbyist. Do you think $340k will keep them from leaving?
Look, I understand Daniel Schuman's basic premise -- pay politicians more money and you get better politicians -- I just don't happen to buy it. Frankly, I'm not interested in filling the halls of Congress with folks who got into public service for the money; that's not the kind of person I want running our country.
Most of the people I know who are very good at their jobs -- teachers, engineers, auto mechanics, accountants, plumbers, and yes, even journalists -- didn't choose what they do because of how much it pays. They chose it because they love it and/or are awfully good at it.
If you ask me, trying to attract people with money simply attracts the wrong kind of people. There's a word for those motivated by money: "mercenary." I don't want my government representatives getting into public service for the payout; I want them running for office because they feel a sincere desire to make the world a better place.
And $174,000 a year, with all of the other benefits and perks of the job of Congressperson, seems more than generous for something you'd already better love doing.
Anyway, that's just my two cents' worth.
Of course, adjusted for inflation, it's probably closer to three-and-a-half cents.
Would somebody please explain to his editors that Mark Saal would do a much better job on these columns if only they'd pay him a lot more money? Contact him at 801-625-4272 or email@example.com.