Photo credit: Ron Cogswell (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Ron Cogswell (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Ron Cogswell (CC-By-2.0)

Well, that’s a controversial title.

I believe that congressmen – that is, representatives in the House and Senators – should have an annual salary of 12 million dollars.

This may sound absolutely crazy to fiscal conservatives – isn’t the US spending enough as it is? And the politicians aren’t doing anything useful, why should they get a raise? All they ever do is cuddle with Wall Street!

I completely agree with the last point. Wall Street largely controls K street. And that is why I support a 12 million annual salary for congressmen.

See, everyone knows that congress is corrupt, but no-one ever asks why. Is it really the case that Americans are just really bad at picking politicians? That, year after year, they just happen to pick the 535 most morally bankrupt individuals the nation has to offer? Maybe, but I think a more likely explanation is that the environment in Washington, DC is turning honest men corrupt. Yes, there are a few bad apples elected every two years, but the vast majority I dare to say at least start off with the intention of serving the people, and then unfortunately many lose their way.

And I believe lack of money is a big reason why this happens. In fact, it’s been proven in scientific studies that increasing salaries reduces corruption. It’s quite simple really: If you’re highly paid, you don’t need to take bribes to survive. If you offered Bill Gates $50 000 to do something that was against his moral code (like, use an iPhone), he’d laugh at you because that kind of money is just spare change to him. If you made the same offer to someone making $30 000 a year, you may very well get a different response. The more money someone has, the harder it is to buy them.

I feel that I should state in the interest of transparency that I am not nor will I ever be a fan of Donald Trump – it may seem that I am repeating the argument he has made, that since he’s rich he can’t be bought. While I agree that this is true in general, I’m afraid Donald Trump is the one exception from this rule – he seems to be the kind of rich guy who’ll do anything for an extra buck, even though he doesn’t need it. If you don’t believe me, google “Vera Coking”.

Think about it: If congressmen were making $12 million/year, most of them would be able to self-fund their re-election campaigns instead of relying on (Wall Street-sponsored) super-PACs and the generosity of the Koch Brothers. Because at the end of the day, politicians don’t run errands for Wall Street because it’s fun or because that’s what they dreamed of when they were kids – they do it because they have to. It’s pragmatic realpolitik, nothing else.

As an additional benefit, congressmen would get more done. Wonder why they don’t read the bills before they vote on them? Well, if you had to spend half your time talking to donors and attending fundraisers (not at all unusual, especially in the House), how much time would you have for reading? Exactly.

In addition to campaign funding, the other reason politicians turn corrupt is to secure a job once they are out of politics. While there are a few people who remain in office until they retire, most will eventually have to go back in the real world and find a day job. And it really helps if you haven’t made yourself an enemy of the entire corporate America while you were in Washington, DC, or you may find yourself with limited job options & earnings potential. And that’s yet another reason why congress will never confront Wall Street. If congressmen made so much money that they could retire after just one or two terms, that problem disappears.

Some may fear that having every congressman become a multimillionaire would make them detached from the reality of everyday Americans, and that they’d stop caring about the views of normal people. First of all I fail to see how that would be any different from today. Second of all, I believe the exact opposite would happen – politicians would be scared of losing their jobs since they’re unlikely to ever find one that pays better or even equal, and so would have a greater incentive to listen to voters. And, when they no longer have to listen to Wall Street or Big Business, they’ll have more time to listen to average Joes – which is what most of them deep down want to do, after all.

But what about a citizen legislature? That’s a solution I’ve heard many conservatives fantasize about; politicians making average salaries and only working in DC for maybe six months a year, and spending the other six months at home, living under the laws they have themselves created and working normal jobs. That way, they won’t be able to insulate themselves in the DC bubble but instead they will be forced to live among regular people and see the effect that the laws have on them.

First of all, I’ll admit that this may in many ways be preferable to the current system. Really, the current system is a case of “worst of both worlds”: Politicians are paid enough that they can live all year round in DC and insulate themselves from the lives of average people, but not so much that they can resist (direct and indirect) bribes from Wall Street.

The problem with having a federal citizen legislature is that first of all, in today’s world it’s practically unworkable. There is simply a lot more work for congressmen to do today than there was 200 years ago. Today, America is a superpower and it needs to have its legislature at hand more or less 24/7.

The other thing is that businesses would likely have even more influence than they do today – that is, the businesses that the congressmen worked for the 6 or so months that congress were out of session. Imagine a congressman who worked for an agricultural business half the year – what are the odds that he would ever support repealing the completely unjustified agricultural subsidies? He’d likely lose his job if he did.

Finally, it would be very hard to attract smart people to run for congress if the pay wasn’t even remotely attractive. Idealists will always run regardless of the salary, but it really isn’t a good idea to have a country run only by idealists with good intentions but no brains. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone from the former USSR.

I know that some of you reading this will think, “Well, if only we elected God-fearing people with integrity, we wouldn’t need to pay them millions”. That’s all well and good, but the truth is that no-one except for Christ himself is completely uncorruptable. We’re largely a product of our environments, and the more temptations we face, the more temptations we fall for. As we all know, power corrupts, which is why we must ensure that those whom we entrust with power live in an as “un-tempting” environment as possible; the moral temptations they will face simply because they are powerful are more than enough without adding financial struggles on top. Yes, there are politicians who buck the trend, who stay true to their values even though they would have been better off personally if they had “played the game”. Ron Paul is such a politician, and for that he deserves great respect. However, realistically, if we want Washington to stand up for the middle class against the plutocracy, we must allow them to earn enough that they are not financially dependent on the plutocracy.

Another criticism that I anticipate is that this will cause people to run for office, solely for the purpose of making money. I don’t think this will be a big issue as most people who successfully run for (higher) office have dedicated most of their lives to politics one way or the other. Voters will be able to see through most opportunists, and as for those who are elected, how much damage can they cause? All that happens is that we end up with a few congressmen who will do a minimum amount of work and will only ever vote according to the party line, which kind of sounds like most of them today. Instead of opportunists, I believe the main effect will be that this will attract more smart people (who could work as lawyers or doctors and make multiple times what a congressman does) to politics, which I hope we can all agree would be a good thing.

How did I come up with the number $12 million? Honestly, I just picked a high number that seemed good. I wouldn’t mind if the number was $20 or $30 million. As for the President and members of the cabinet, they ought to make in the hundreds of millions or billions. And no, this won’t cost America any significant amount of money – do the math yourself and you’ll see the cost ends up being far less than 1 % of tax revenue. This additional cost will be offset by the savings that will be made from ending corporate welfare and breaking the Wall Street-to-Washington axis of power. In fact, it may turn out to be the highest-yielding public investment since the Manhattan project which as we all know saved hundreds of thousands of American lives for the measly cost of $26 billion (inflation-adjusted).

I anticipate quite a few angry reactions to this article, and I will respond to all comments that demonstrate that the author actually read it before writing. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

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