Op-Ed: The do-nothing Congress gets paid $174,000 for 112 days of ‘work’


President Harry Truman ran for re-election in 1948 as a populist president who had succeeded President Franklin Roosevelt after his death in 1945.  Roosevelt had been a larger-than-life president who had been in office for an unprecedented four terms, having first been elected in 1932.

Roosevelt’s predecessor, President Herbert Hoover, presided over the Great Depression, and his presidency will always be associated with his disastrous economic policies that only served to make the Depression even worse. Many years later, Hoover wrote, “I am the only person of distinction who has ever had a depression named after him.”

Truman had big shoes to fill. Americans were trying to adjust to a new outspoken president whose personality was radically different from the calming and mild-mannered Roosevelt. Truman’s relationship with Congress was nothing short of combative. Unlike Roosevelt, Truman was feisty and short-tempered, and he had no qualms telling Congress what he thought about them.

During his final 1948 campaign speeches, he began using a phrase that resonated with voters. He told his audiences that his programs were being thwarted by a “do-nothing Congress.” Truman won the 1948 election. Truman is seen holding a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune (now the Chicago Tribune) with the banner headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”

Times have certainly changed since Truman’s presidency, but not the politics. The current 113th Congress can certainly be called a do-nothing Congress, not only in the few bills of substance that have passed, but because this Congress has hardly gone to work.

To be exact, this Congress (from January through December) will have worked a total of 112 days.  They didn’t work in August because of the traditional “August Vacation.” Then they came back from vacation to work only a few days in September, and then they decided to take the rest of the year off.

Rank and file members of the House and Senate get paid a yearly salary of $174,000, and that doesn’t include all the fringe benefits that come with the privilege of serving in Congress.

Let’s do a little math.  A House or Senate member earns $14,500 per month, or $476.71 per day.  However, if one calculates the number of days worked in 2014 (112 days), a member should have only earned $53,391.52.

Who else in America could get away with this chicanery?  The members of the 113th Congress will earn their full $174,000 salary for 112 days of work. Sounds like a pretty nice job, doesn’t it?

Sure, members of Congress love to tell us that they work hard doing constituent work at home. I’ve met some of these members of Congress, and the truth is, they really do work while they’re not in Washington. However, the vast majority of representatives and senators do not. Sadly, because of the two-year terms of House members, they find themselves endlessly campaigning for the next election.

A recent visitor to this office said recently that it may not actually be a bad idea for Congress to be away from Washington for the remainder of the year. As the visitor quipped, “They’ll probably do less damage away from Washington.”

Translation: In this case, a do-nothing Congress may actually be preferable.




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