Is It a Good Idea to Cut Congressional Pay?
Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has put forth a set of proposals to uproot and overhaul Washington. Perry proposes deep reforms for all three branches of the federal government, including a constitutional amendment to put limits on Supreme Court terms and the elimination of three cabinet-level departments (and you know which three I mean).
It is Perry’s ideas about Congress that have raised the most recent attention. He is calling for a part-time “Citizens’ Congress” whose members would hold “real jobs” in their communities. To encourage Representatives and Senators to get or hold onto real jobs he would cut congressional salaries in half. Given the historically low congressional approval ratings (One recent poll suggested that people would like a communist takeover of the US more than they like the current Congress,) a lot of the public may think Perry’s proposal makes a good deal of sense.
Take a closer look, though. The popular perception may be the Congress has raised the salaries of its members frequently and substantially. The current annual salary of a member of Congress is $174,000. Not bad, but far less than a successful college football coach might make. In fact, Congress is very reluctant to raise its members’ salaries. Imagine campaign ads, “Congressman Jones voted 8 times to raise his own salary. . . .” Political scientist Matt Glassman points out that congressional salaries adjusted for inflation are barely higher than they were a century ago.
What may be more interesting is the finding in a recent article by Jeffrey R. Lax and Justin H. Phillips that more professional (meaning in part well-paid) state legislatures are more responsive to public opinion in general ideological terms and on specific policy measures. Of course, you can’t simply assume that what is true for state legislatures would automatically be true for the U.S. Congress, but it is food for thought.
Interestingly, none of Perry’s uproot and overhaul proposals apply to (drum roll) the Presidency. You might expect that weakening Congress, the courts, and the bureaucracy would tend to strengthen the White House. Oops!
- Perry’s Plan (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
- Rick Perry has ideas on how to reform government (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- Perry calls for government overhaul (mercurynews.com)
- Rick Perry’s Wrongheaded “Government Reform” Plan (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Perry Plan Would Make Big Changes To Washington (npr.org)
- Is Rick Perry plan to ‘uproot’ Washington enough to overcome ‘oops’ debate moment? (VIDEO) (csmonitor.com)
- Perry: Washington Needs To Be Rebuilt From The Ground Up (npr.org)
- Rick Perry wants a part-time Congress (dailykos.com)
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