Cartoon: It’s A Matter Of Perspective

[spoiler]Panel 1
An old man, who is a Senator, wearing a suit and tie, sits behind a large desk. There is an American flag behind the desk.
SENATOR: I love being a Senator. Lots of assistants, comfy chair, the pay is great, and I never lift anything heavier than my laptop.

Panel 2
SENATOR: I could keep doing this job forever!

Panel 3
As it snows heavily, an old man wearing a plaid shirt struggles to life a huge bundle of newspapers out of a truck. Behind him, through the snow, we can see the Capitol Building in the background.

On the front paper of the bundle of papers, we can read the headline: CONGRESS RAISES RETIREMENT AGE. A sub-headline says “Senator: ‘I’ve never met anyone who wants to stop working!'”[/spoiler]

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11 Responses to Cartoon: It’s A Matter Of Perspective

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    From some random web site I forgot the link for:

    As of 2010, yearly salaries for United States Senators were as follows:
    • Basic Senators (no leadership position) – $174,000
    • Majority and Minority Leaders – $193,400
    • President Pro Tempore – $223,500
    • Vice President (President of the Senate) – $230,700

    So the average figure is $174,000. Now, I presume that you need somewhere to live in D.C. – which isn’t cheap – there’s living expenses, which are going to be fairly high in the D.C. area, and you have your house back in your home state. The salary isn’t as great as you might think. But then, most of these guys are relatively wealthy anyway and don’t try to make it on their salary.

    Lots of assistants is true, though. And the benefits (including health care and retirement) are pretty damn good. Nah, it’s all about the power.

  2. 2
    Robert says:

    I’m not sure what the point of the cartoon is supposed to be. Senators have easy jobs, so they think that raising the retirement age is a kindness to folks? Changes in the retirement age, as far I understand, are primarily attempts to improve Social Security’s fiscal standing. What does that have to to jolly I-love-my-job Senatorial monologuing?

  3. 3
    Stentor says:

    Robert: The point is that raising the retirement age sounds like an easy way to improve Social Security’s fiscal standing if your point of reference is a job like “Senator” — it’s not a big hardship for Senators to have to work a few more years. But raising the retirement age is a much bigger burden on people with physically demanding jobs like delivery drivers. So empathy for people in physically demanding jobs ought to make you less inclined to raise the retirement age (and so we should fix Social Security some other way, like raising taxes).

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    Yeah, because raising taxes doesn’t make life any harder on the elderly. :)

    I see the connection you’re making. What a pity it is that FDR duped the nation into a welfare program instead of creating a genuinely-funded retirement savings vehicle. The delivery driver could choose whether to retire at X dollars a month now, or to keep working for a bigger payout tomorrow, instead of being at the mercy of the political class. And the people making fiscal decisions could make them on fiscal grounds, and not have to either excise human sentimentality from their breast or damage the long-term viability of programs.

  5. 5
    Sebastian says:

    Who cares about senator’s salaries? The common wisdom in Europe is that American senators make their money from bribery. By most European laws, what lobbyists practice is outright bribery. And lets not even talk about why they get the dozens of board positions, cushy talk circuits, etc…

    I have to say, after 16 years in the States, I have not seen anything that contradicts the common wisdom in Europe.

  6. 6
    closetpuritan says:

    Who cares about senator’s salaries? The common wisdom in Europe is that American senators make their money from bribery.

    The common wisdom in Iran is that the 9/11 attacks were done by Israel.

    Only the stupid ones actually take direct bribes. I think direct bribes are what you meant by “make their money from bribery”? They can accept expensive trips to some degree, and can accept campaign contributions, but they can’t pay their bills or buy a car with those.

    OTOH, you’re right that the senators, for the most part, get plenty of income apart from their salaries; most senators and representatives are pretty rich and were before they ever get elected.

  7. 7
    Sebastian says:

    If you had gotten to the next sentence in my post, you’d have seen that by ‘bribery’ I meant ‘things that European laws view as bribery’. That includes expensive trips, activities, meals, highly paid jobs that require little to no effort, etc…

    As for not buying a car or paying bills… How many times has a politician come to scrutiny for a unrelated matter, only for us to find out that he has been using ‘contributions’ to hush up scandals, pay mistresses, send his extended family on vacation?

    And senators being pretty rich before getting elected? If the article you linked shows anything, it is that the net worth of a freshman senator is one eighth of that of the average senator. I.e. somehow, while drawing their not particularly impressive salary, they double their net worth three times.

  8. 8
    Robert says:

    Much of the income gain from being in Congress is legitimate or quasi-legitimate; your personal network is deepened and, even if phonier, becomes more willing to do you a solid. And of course much of the increase can be illegitimate or quasi-illegitimate.

    That said, I find it telling that a comment I make frequently about Joe Biden (who I am rather fond of) has never once been misinterpreted or not understood. (“You can tell Joe Biden is a deeply honest man. He was in the Senate for 36 years and he’s still not rich.”)

  9. 9
    closetpuritan says:

    Sebastian: Yeah, I actually did read all of your comment. And what was apparently your intended reading did occur to me–and I did hedge a bit with “I think direct bribes are what you meant”–but I decided after a second reading that I was right the first time and that that couldn’t be what you meant, because you wouldn’t have phrased it as “how they make their money” or “outright bribery” unless you meant, well, outright bribery.

    Re: my link, it also says “National parties, looking for ways to bring down their own costs, actively recruit wealthy candidates.” Also,
    Can only the wealthy run for Congress? At the same time that Congress has become more of a millionaires’ club, running a congressional campaign has become increasingly costly. There’s no empirical evidence to suggest the two are related, but any political operative will tell you that not everyone can afford to run a campaign.
    “As a congressional candidate, “every waking minute of every day is devoted to that campaign,” said Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “It requires an extraordinary amount of time, and it becomes difficult for a lot of people if you have a full-time job… When you’ve got a mortgage to pay and college tuition and braces to pay for, those kinds of day-to-day, real-life expenses come before putting six months into a campaign.””

    And: “Even the 2010 elections, with its promises to “take our country back,” produced a freshman class of senators with a median net worth of close to $4 million. The median net worth of freshman House members is more than half a million dollars”

    I didn’t say that they didn’t get richer after being elected, I said they were rich even before they got elected. I for one think a net worth of half a million dollars is “rich”, never mind $4 million.

  10. 10
    Jane Doh says:

    I lived in DC for 6 years in Dupont Circle (a relatively expensive neighborhood), and my living expenses for myself and spouse were under $40k (though I made more than that and spouse worked too). Granted, I did not own a car and rented an apartment, but both of those choices are also valid for a Senator. I also shopped at Whole Paycheck, went on fancy vacations abroad, and ate out at fancy restaurants when I wanted to. $174,000 goes a LONG way, even in DC.

  11. 11
    Robert says:

    Not to come to the defense of the US Congress, may they fall into 535 wells and die lonely, but bear in mind that you didn’t have kids, it is difficult for Congressional spouses to work at full potential (especially Representatives with their two-year terms), even Representatives have a fairly high level of social expectations and burdensome hosting duties (including having a place big enough for a dinner party – I lived in Dupont Circle too, once upon a time, and I bet your place was charming and cozy, just like mine), and you weren’t flying round-trip across the country to your district once a week or so. Yes, a lot of that spending is voluntary or controllable, but much or all of it is fairly integral to doing the job right; if you aren’t flying back to Dubuque now and again, how are people in Dubuque who can’t fly to DC to see you, getting face to face access to you? If you don’t have the Bidens over once in a while, how are you going to sweet-talk Joe into backing your sewer upgrade and maintenance bill? And so forth.

    Eww, I had to empathize with a Congressman there. Now I feel dirty. Dirty and ashamed.