If the government shuts down, do you think that members of Congress will collect their paychecks anyway? This is something that they get to decide -- why wouldn't they give themselves paychecks? -- and with hours left to spare before the government shuts down, no one seems particularly interested in taking that vote. At first glance, it may seem that, like Cartman, they do what they want but I think they're at the mercy of The Tea Party. Lobbyists. Corporate interests. Bipartisan issues. Blah, blah, blah.
As I channel surf, listlessly giving lawmakers the side eye as they yammer on and on about policy and constituents and what's best for America, certain things almost always come to mind.
- Lawmakers make way more money than I do. Majority and Minority Party Leaders in the Senate and House earn $193,400 annually. The Speaker of the House makes $223,500 annually. Each Representative earns $165,200 annually. A cost of living adjustment happens every year, unless they vote against it. And they can vote for salary increases, too. Don't forget, they've got lots of expenses -- travel, assistants, staff. The final payout can be substantial. Just remember: we're footing the bill.
How much does the average American make? Less than $40,000. Everyone in Congress should be forced to live on that much money -- or our collective salaries should rise to their six figure level to accommodate the cost of living, just as theirs does.
And to think that Benjamin Franklin thought elected government officials shouldn't earn any money from their positions.
- As federal employees, members of Congress have access to good health insurance. It's not free, but here's an important thought: When one of them or their family members has cancer or any other debilitating illness, they aren't refused treatment or denied coverage. They can get the care that they need. If Blue Cross/Blue Shield won't handle it, they can also utilize taxpayer-subsidized care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Something to think about, while you watch them go off on each other over the national health care bill.
- Members of Congress have paid vacations. They're called non-legislative days. There's quite a few of them in 2011. Last year, all of their time off added up to 23 1/2 weeks. Yikes! That's almost 6 months.
My solution? Get out of all three wars and stop policing the world, cut the defense budget and tax the rich.
It may not be much, but -- to paraphrase Tony Brown -- that's just one black woman's opinion.