Home > Applying Political Science, Political Science > Is It a Good Idea to Cut Congressional Pay?

Is It a Good Idea to Cut Congressional Pay?

HOUSTON, TX -  AUGUST 6:   Texas Governor Rick...

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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!

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  1. Hillary
    November 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    It’s Rick Perry’s idea and from what I’ve heard Rick Perry say and all the coverage on him I already know it’s most likely a bad idea.

  2. bklunk
    November 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Of course, we would hope to be less personal and more analytical.

  3. Yesenia Gutierrez
    November 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    I do find it interesting that Perry would not include the presidency in the slashes that he is proposing. If he has not realized that people have seen this issue, he has to know that they will eventually. If Perry does not realize this then he has a bigger problem if he thinks policies like this will win people over. Although the idea of having Congress members having another job is interesting it could lead to Congress members focusing on their other job more than their position, but this might be tricky because in order to stay in their position they need satisfy their constituents. It could serve to help their position if constituents see them working, even though they know that they have the job because they need to pay the bills. In the end, getting another job could help or hinder, it depends on the person.

  4. Yesenia Gutierrez
    November 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    To explicitly answer the question, it is a good idea in theory to cut their pay cuts but in reality, it would be very difficult to implement unless their was a well though out plan, which includes a timeline.

  5. Mitchell
    November 17, 2011 at 2:24 am

    While the idea of implementing some sort of pay cut because Congress is doing an awful job sounds resonable. However they shouldnt have to hold another job.

  6. Sarah B.
    November 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I think that a pay cut it necessary but i’m not too sure that I agree with the “getting another job” proposal. It just seems unnecessary because they can have one job with a lower pay and still focus on the people.

  7. Nathan Reed
    November 17, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I think it’s a good idea to cut their salaries down to about 100,000-125,000. That’s more than both my parents put together make. Plus they have so many other perks, like two month vacations when the session is over.

  8. Jocelyn
    November 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I think that cutting Congressional pay would be good and I think that jolding “real jobs” in their community would be quite beneficial because they would have a chance to really see what ctiizens really think about society or what have you.

  9. Hannah Perkins
    November 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I think it’s a good idea to cut their pays and give them the chance to take on real jobs within the community. No better way to get close to society than to work within it.

  10. Neil
    November 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I don’t think that cutting pay is a good idea, I would say that they’re underpaid for the amount of work and type of work they do. Also, $174k in different parts of the country means different things, for example 174k in New York City doesn’t get you much, but $174k in Stockton will get you whatever you want.

  11. Emma Fonseca
    November 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    It’s not shocking that there are no changes to the Presidency, however it would not only be benefitting to Perry. Considering that there are caps on the presidential terms it wouldn’t be as if he would be set for life. His plan seems reasonable if it was the start to a newly founded country, or even maybe if each change was slowly implemented. However, that is not the case and America is a country that does not move quickly with change.

  12. Irain J.
    November 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    It is interesting how Rick Perry would like to take power away from Congress and the judiciary. Its better to keep all the branches with separate and not empower a a single branch. As for having congress members work part time civilian jobs and be a part of congress i believe that is a bad idea.

  13. Richard R. Munoz
    November 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t think a downgrade in pay from $174,000 to around $125,000 would be- or should be, for that matter- detrimental to the job performance of the House members. As Nathan stated, the members of the House receive numerous perks simply for holding office; such as, a life time of the best health care package in the nation after completing a four year term, 64 paid vacation days, and several weeks of sick leave. Considering the fact that the House membership is composed of people who, ideally, determined that it was worthwhile to pursue a career serving the public, you would think they of all people would be more open to perhaps placing less demand on the nation’s coffers.

  14. Samuel Park
    November 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I agree with Neil, that one sum of money can get you more in one city/state than another. I think cutting congressional pay wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Besides, these congressmen probably have millions of dollars in their accounts, what is cutting a couple thousand dollars going to do?

  15. Lauren Barrera
    November 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    If congressmen were to take on jobs within their communities it is easy to assume they would have a better idea of the lives of their constituents. However, cutting their pay in half is a bit rash. Especially when considering “Political scientist Matt Glassman points out that congressional salaries adjusted for inflation are barely higher than they were a century ago.”

  16. Christopher McHenry
    December 1, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I think that cutting pay is good gives politicians a chance to actually see whats going on in society everyday.

  17. Brishonn
    December 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    i think it’s a goo idea

  18. Brishonn
    December 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm


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