“The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants.” – George Washington
With the government officially shutdown and no compromise in sight between the two dominant parties in Congress, I believe it’s a good time to talk about the effect of career politicians on our democratic society. Our Founding Fathers were adamant in how they viewed power and the limits that should be put on such power. Thomas Jefferson speaks his views on long-term politicians: “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct”. We experience this rottenness today with most of our politicians making a career of their position.
Imagine: you turn on the T.V and you hear Robin Leach’s famous tagline, “…champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” You see private jets escorting people to their destination, watch them eat lobster and a perfectly cooked medium-rare Kobe steak, and you think of the piles of money they must have in their bank accounts. No, this isn’t the life of a famous actor, professional athlete, or business mogul; this is the life of a modern day politician in Congress. Current members of Congress make a “minimum” of at least $174,000 a year. Majority and minority leaders in Congress earn closer to $200,000 a year. A politician who wins a Senate race will be guaranteed to make $1.044 million in their time in office! The salary these politicians make doesn’t account for the nice checks they receive from their lobbyist friends. Salary is just the tip of the iceberg of the luxuries that politicians experience. Other perks of our “faithful” politicians are great benefits and bonuses (which they vote for themselves!), free travel as long as it is “business related” (we can only imagine how liberal they are with this policy), and the most shocking of all…Congress only works for 137 days of the 260 work days (yes that’s over 19 weeks of vacation time) per year! Oh by the way, this is all paid by our tax dollars AND as 800,000 Americans are out of work during the government shutdown our politicians are still getting paid! Getting paid for what?! Not being able to compromise? Didn’t we learn this when we were kindergarten?
The Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is one of the main actors in this shutdown, has been one of the longest serving members in Congress. He was elected to the House in 1990, and is now in his 23rd year in Congress. When Speaker Boehner eventually decides to put down the self-spray tanner and retire he will get paid by LAW $1 million a year for 5 years to “facilitate the administration, settlement and conclusion of matters pertaining to or arising out of” his tenure as speaker of the House. Are you kidding me?! And these are the same people who are looking out for our best interest? The median household income in 2011 was $50,000; a far cry from what politicians expect in their bank accounts. How can a career politician vote on legislation that will never affect him?
President Obama’s legacy hinges on the success of Obamacare, a heath care act that Congress deemed best for the American people. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who are serving their 27th and 26th years in Congress respectively, are not subjected to the new law. If it’s so (insert expletive here) great then why did they make sure to exempt themselves from this “exceptionally thought out” (*cough, cough*) piece of legislation?
With all these perks that politicians receive, it is no wonder why they never want to leave office. Most of these politicians work in either states or districts that are easily secured; they are never challenged, sometimes literally. In the rare case a politician is challenged, he or she will say and do whatever it takes to get the necessary votes within a district. They’re no better than the popular kid in grade school who promises a brand new vending machine because he knows that’s what the classmates want. The poor student who tries to explain to the class that the vending machine just isn’t in the budget is left in the dust. Truth does not win elections, “promises” do. We the people can never fully trust someone running for office. There is too much at stake for that politician to win, and it has nothing to do with their love of freedom, America, or any other patriotic slogan they will use. It comes down to their own personal bottom line. Vice President Joe Biden has been in political office for 42 years. Does he truly understand what people go through on a day-to-day basis? Absolutely not! And this is at no fault on him personally. Any human being who is separated from social norms for that amount of time will forget what a normal citizen goes through. Founding Father George Mason said it best on the role of a politician: ”Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens.” Being in Congress for decades at a time is not beneficial to the United States and its citizens. We need to take a long look at a politician’s role in society, and how long that role should last.
So here we are, experiencing a government shutdown, debt-ceiling talks looming in the background, and the people who are paid to solve it have no idea about the reality that the average American wakes up to everyday.