By Tim Price

No Pay, No Problem: Why Congress Doesn’t Need Our Money

January 27, 2013 7:45 pm Category: Memo Pad 19 Comments A+ / A-
No Pay, No Problem: Why Congress Doesn’t Need Our Money

One reason Congress is so dysfunctional is that wealthy lawmakers are insulated from everyday concerns like getting paid.

This week, as part of a compromise to ward off a debt ceiling showdown and potential default, the House approved the No Budget, No Pay Act, which would withhold lawmakers’ paychecks starting April 15 unless they pass a budget. If you haven’t been keeping up with GOP talking points, this is the latest attempt to pressure Senate Democrats into producing a budget resolution, which they haven’t done in the last four years for various inane parliamentary reasons. But whatever you think of its intent, it’s an empty gesture and one that highlights the troubling disconnect between average Americans and their elected officials.

Despite its gimmicky origins, No Budget, No Pay has a certain intuitive appeal. As centrist commentator John Avlon writes, “If you don’t get the job done at work, you won’t get paid.” Sure, you or I would probably just get fired, but we don’t have gerrymandering to save us. Still, why should we reward Harry Reid and his crew for shirking their responsibilities while House Republicans have been keeping their noses to the grindstone and dutifully passing Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand fan fiction?

For one thing, it’s unconstitutional. Not “unconstitutional” in the wingnut sense that cutting the crusts off your sandwich is unconstitutional if there’s a photo of Barack Obama doing it, but unconstitutional in the sense that the 27th Amendment specifically prohibits Congress from mucking around with its own pay unless there’s an intervening election. To get around this little detail, the act is designed so that the members’ checks get deposited into an escrow account until a) they pass a budget or b) the term ends in 2014, at which point they get paid in full either way. In other words, it’s less of a threat to their livelihood and more of an experiment in delayed gratification.

But a more significant problem is that most legislators probably couldn’t care less if their pay was withheld indefinitely. As of 2011, the average estimated wealth of members of Congress was $6.5 million in the House and $13.9 million in the Senate. And unlike many of their constituents, they haven’t exactly been struggling through lean times recently. While average American households saw their median net worth drop 39 percent from 2007 to 2010, lawmakers’ rose five percent during the same period. That’s not to say that every member of Congress is set for life; some are deep in debt like true red-blooded Americans. But threats to withhold pay are ineffective when most of our representatives have enough money in their rainy day funds to last them through monsoon season. And if worse comes to worst, they can always exit through the revolving door and join a few corporate boards to replenish their bank accounts.

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No Pay, No Problem: Why Congress Doesn’t Need Our Money Reviewed by on . One reason Congress is so dysfunctional is that wealthy lawmakers are insulated from everyday concerns like getting paid. This week, as part of a compromise to One reason Congress is so dysfunctional is that wealthy lawmakers are insulated from everyday concerns like getting paid. This week, as part of a compromise to Rating:

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Comments

  • charleo1

    It is a fact that in Washington, or any place else, we have one group of millionaires in Congress,
    talking almost exclusively to another set of millionaires, and billionaires, on a daily basis.
    And we wonder why the Middle Class is disappearing.

    • idamag

      Charle, and when they get up there and say, “This is what my constituents want.” they are talking about their millionaire and billionaire friends.

      • charleo1

        That is all too true. I recall watching G. W. at a big fund raiser, a few years back now.
        He said he was glad to see all the, “haves, and have mores.” And went on to say, “In
        other words, my constituency!”

  • nobsartist

    More drama.

    Where are the jobs?

    Where are the bank investigations?

    Where is Obama?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B6RROC4IUESHT322QS5VJVPYRM Lynda

    The so-called No Budget, No Pay Act is a fraud. The fact is that they will only see their pay held longer if no action is taken. At the end of the term the money in escrow accounts will be paid. The only pressure this ACT accomplishes is making all these crazies look a little more sane to the ill informed public. They better hope that nobody is reading the fine print. Pathetic as usual.

    • old_blu

      High intrest savings accounts. “Pathetic as usual” you are absolutely right Lynda.

      • BDC_57

        good morning my friend they sit on ther asses doing nothing and still getting paid for nothing even if they don’t get paid they still are.

    • gahoof

      I wish they would earn no more than what I earn at my local bank (1/4 of 1% [thats .0025%]). That’s probably what a lot of savers are earning in this low-interest environment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Jones/827014412 Daniel Jones

    I think you see now why I call the Capitol Tammany Hill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

    We are all expected to work to earn our keep. The problem is that the proposals advanced by the GOP majority in the House are so filled with radical demands, focused mostly on reductions in social programs, that the Democratic minority had no choice but to vote no. There is a difference between rejecting an unacceptable bill and not working. Not surprisingly, the party whose motto remains our way or the highway, just came up with a new gimmick that will appeal to those more inclined to believe smoke and mirrors or a cute 30-second commercial than doing the hard work of researching issues to reach logical conclusions.

    • sigrid28

      Dominick, I and others on this comment thread, including yourself, have been pleading for stimulus instead of austerity since before the election. Now this article and E. J. Dionne’s today indicate that the staff at the National Memo may have finally turned to the same page. This morning on “Morning Joe,” Paul Krugman argued that there’s plenty of time to fix Medicare and Social Security, even the deficit. More urgent is the need to stimulate the economy. The others at the table wouldn’t let him finish a sentence and brow beat him about not taking our “growing debt” seriously. Then Joe Scarborough had the audacity to tell Krugman, not ask him, that he would be invites back again. To his credit, Paul Krugman told them that in his view “Morning Joe” just starts too early. Meanwhile, in the capitals of Europe, where austerity measures have resulted in double-dip recessions and punishing unemployment for young adults, huge ads for Professor Krugman’s book “Stop the Depression Now” are plastered all over the sides of busses.

      It was the No Budget, No Pay Act that actually convinced me of the need for a steely, wily gatekeeper like Harry Reid to block this nonsense in its tiny little tip-toeing tracks. When will Democrats and Independents speak up loudly enough in favor of stimulus to drown out people like Paul Ryan, squeaking frantically on “Meet the Press” about the “need” to cut spending and entitlements to fix the deficit? When will the press quit humoring him? His threats to let the sequester take effect will have to face the stoney resistance of the Democratic Senate, where “no action” is a virtue–just as it has been in the House, as you so rightly point out.

  • old_blu

    All that is happening here is they are making sure they have a nice savings account, if I don’t get my work done I don’t get a special savings account I get fired.

    • neeceoooo

      You’re right, if I didn’t do my work I would be fired. And guess what, we pay their salaries so I have a great idea, let’s fire their asses in 2 years.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TT6POTCLZCE74T76WAJIIIUAHU frida

    It is craziness of Boehner and his buddies even talking about “No budget, No pay”. First of all, they didn’t employ the other side and do not represent them. Secondly, while the congress approval rating (that is also incl. Boehner) is approaching below zero, how can they, with the straight face, tell the other half of congress, will not get paid if they do not produce the budget? They are all in all do nothing congress.

    • BDC_57

      Boehner is scare of the Tea Baggers in congress.

  • Lovefacts

    What a phoney offer. It’s unconstitutional and they know it. The 27th Amendment prohibits “any law that increases or decreases the salary of members of the Congress from taking effect until the start of the next set of terms of office for Representatives.” That means the lawmakers would be unaffected until the new Congress is sworn in–that’s 2015. I wonder why that wasn’t the thrust of the article.

    As for do nothing, I have to agree. But then, how much can anyone accomplish when Boehner has degreed they only are in session 2 days/week. Now that’s a crime and we’re paying them $140K/year plus the bennies like free travel.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B6RROC4IUESHT322QS5VJVPYRM Lynda

      Its worse than you think. The base pay for congressmen is $174K, plus the bennies. Not too bad for a part time job.

  • roguerunners

    After reading this, the Second Amendment is starting to make a whole lot of sense! ;)

  • rustacus21

    OK, NOW we’re getting down to business!!! But Republicans don’t quite understand the issue yet again. As the laziest, most unproductive Congress in decades, pay should be w/held, true enuff. But it should hinge more on productivity & willingness to cooperate on the affairs of state – NOT catering to exclusive minority (wealthy & corporate interests ONLY) concerns, at the exclusion of 98% of the rest of the population. My question is, who is it that votes for these conservatives & what is it that keeps these mental invalids in office? W/the MidTerms coming up next year, there’s plenty we now know to give us all the incentive we need to elect a fully functioning Congress. In fact, why wait til then? Boenher, Issa & the rest of that conservative confederacy should be facing recall now, for seditiously impeding progressing on ending the nations longest economic Depression in 84 years. Pressure should also be mounting on the administration for not fighting more vigorously FOR the Middle Class, poor, elderly, single-parent families & the disabled – all of whom have & continue to suffer severely & unnecessarily, b/c of Republican policy madness. When it ends is ultimately up to We citizens. Republican voters: this suffering isn’t sparing U & it’s U’r responsibility to stand up for YOUR nation that is in crisis exclusively b/c of policies of conservatives U support. Do what’s fair, as well as patriotic…

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