Retiring Dem: "Members of Congress are underpaid"

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) may retire at the end of this session, but he wants Americans to learn one lesson from his exit after twelve terms in the House of Representatives. His colleagues aren’t getting paid enough for their efforts (via Dan Doherty):

Really? One measure of whether compensation meets the needs of an organization is to take a look at turnover. How many of the incumbents seek re-election in any given cycle? There have been roughly 30 retirement announcements for this term, a few of which may involve seeking a Senate office. Thirty out of 435 equals a turnover rate of less than 7% — which would not sound like a compensation crisis to anyone in the business world.

Perhaps Moran thinks that Congress over-performs for their compensation. Well, good luck making that case. The base salary of $174,000 is three and a half times the average median household income in the US. Congress hasn’t had a raise since 2010; median household income has declined since that time. For that salary (and we haven’t even begun to consider the cushy benefits of Congress members), the taxpayers that pay those bills rate Congressional performance at 13/79, according to RCP’s latest poll average. It was 22/71 in 2010, the last time Congress got a raise; why should they get another when their performance reviews are dropping rather than improving?

Moran has an answer for that:

The senior appropriator pointed out that some members have taken to living out of their offices to save money, while others have “small little apartment units” that make it impossible to spend the time they should with their families.

Most state legislatures provide their members with a per diem allowance, Moran argues, so the federal government should do the same.

Most state legislatures provide the per diem because their legislatures are a part-time job, with part-time pay. Besides, most members of Congress seem pretty far from enduring a life of poverty. And if they were, perhaps they’d treat their office as a temporary service to their country rather than a family sinecure, such as the Dingells have done.

If it encourages politicians to quit fossilizing themselves into their Capitol Hill offices, we should cut their pay rather than raise it.