Today, Citizens Against Government Waste honored Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) as its April Porker of the Month for his gob smacking statement on April 3, 2014 that members of Congress are “underpaid.” Had the statement been made earlier in the week, CAGW would have assumed that it was an April Fool’s joke. Instead, it appears that Rep. Moran is just behaving like the fool he has become, in April. If there is an upside to the statement, it is that it perfectly encapsulates the attitude of a significant number of members of Congress, a group characterized by their tone-deaf elitism, grinding sense of entitlement, and frightening disconnection from the realities of everyday American citizens. In the April 3, 2014 interview with CQ Roll Call, Rep. Moran, who is thankfully retiring at the end of his current term, intoned that he and his colleagues are not adequately compensated for their public service. “I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid,” Moran said. “I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world.” Since 2009, rank-and-file members of Congress have earned an annual salary of $174,000.
“I think the American people should know that the members of Congress are underpaid”
Count CAGW among those who believe that Congress has underperformed, in exactly the same way that Bernie Madoff ultimately underperformed as the architect of his Ponzi scheme. In fact, Rep., Moran is lucky that this legislative underperformance has not occurred in a private-sector boardroom. Given its abysmal track record of wasteful spending and the overwhelming rise in the national debt to $17.6 trillion, such abject fiduciary failure and rampant duplicity would surely have resulted in the bankruptcy of the company, summary termination of the board’s employment by the company’s shareholders, and perhaps even a term in a federal security facility where orange is the new pinstripe.
Rep. Moran took this dubious assertion a step further, announcing that he plans to highlight this “injustice” by introducing an amendment to the Legislative Branch appropriations bill introduced by Republicans on Wednesday during its full committee markup and floor consideration of the bill, stating “there are too many members of Congress who are having to sleep in their offices, making too much sacrifice.” Rattling his platinum cup louder, Rep. Moran went on to argue that since most state legislatures provide their members with a per diem allowance, the federal government should do the same. According to the Congressional Research Service, members began receiving a $6 per diem in 1789. The rate was eventually raised to $8 and remained there until 1856, when members began to receive annual salaries.
Rep. Moran’s proposal may face additional objections, not the least of which is that the American people hold Congress in such low esteem that their approval ratings range from 7 percent to the mid-teens. Furthermore, the Legislative Branch appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2015 aims to show the chamber’s commitment to restraint by freezing members’ pay and preventing them from receiving an automatic 1.6 percent cost-of-living raise of $2,800. Congress has voted to deny itself a raise for five consecutive years.
In the real world, private-sector employees, including chief executive officers, are awarded raises based on success and measurable results; members of Congress should remain no different. In an economic environment where only the top five percent of U.S. wage earners make the base pay of members of Congress, median incomes have fallen to 1970s levels, the unemployment rate is stuck at 6.7 percent, and 10.5 million people are without jobs, Rep. Moran’s remarks are reprehensible.
For giving voice to the widely-held perception that Congress has become a legislative body that is really about…members of Congress and what’s in it for them, CAGW proudly bestows April’s Porker of the Month award on the very dishonorable Jim Moran. (Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!)
Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government.