On the surface, earning $174,000 per year, while putting one solidly in the top 10% of all US earners, does not sound like much. This happens to be the 2014 allocated wage of America's elected political representatives, the members of the House of Representatives. And indeed, in the grand scheme of things it isn't much... until one considers that in the 102-day period between August 1 and November 12, this wage will be "earned" for just working a paltry 8 days, which, presuming 10 hour workdays, amounts to a whopping $608 per hour, on par with what some of America's most prominent lawyers earn. It is also several times the hourly compensation of anesthesiologists, one of the highest-earning professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at $113 an hour on average.
According to The Hill, liberal activist Ralph Nader worked out the eye-popping calculation in an angry letter he sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday. From The Hill:
“While millions of Americans are working more and more for less and less, you and your House of Representatives seem to have no problem working less and less for more and more,” he wrote.
Nader calculated that Boehner, who earns $223,500 a year as Speaker, will earn roughly $781 per hour over a three-and-half month span, given Congress worked only eight days. Boehner has a higher salary than rank-and-file members.
Lawmakers and their aides rebut Nader’s claim by arguing that time spent in Washington is only part of their job. The other part is meeting with and serving constituents back in their home districts and states. That’s why they call the time away state and district “work periods.”
But critics, including President Obama, aren’t buying it. Obama scolded lawmakers on Aug. 2 for going “on vacation” without passing legislation to raise the minimum wage or reduce interest on student loans.
Yes, we too find it ironic for Obama to be bashing others' vacation practices, but in this case he happens to be right: because if there is one job that is more useless than that of the US GOTUS, it is that of a US politican, whose "work" is laid out as follows:
The House left for a five-week vacation from Washington on Aug. 1 and didn’t return until Sept. 8. After two four-day workweeks, it left again Thursday and is not due to return until Nov. 12.
The Senate worked a similar schedule. It took the same break as the House in August and also worked only two weeks in September before leaving Washington to campaign for the midterm elections.
Some lawmakers admit they should probably be working harder.
Rep. David Jolly, a Republican from Florida, sent a letter to the House Rules Committee asking for the House to adopt a rule that would require it to stay in session longer.
“I write to strongly advocate for a permanent rule change that would formally require the House to be in session significantly more days during the 114th Congress, which will convene in January 2015,” he wrote. “The House of Representatives, the ‘People’s House,’ simply cannot address the many priorities of the nation if we are not in session more days,” he added.
And while it is easy to be furious with America's worthless landed political class - whose only contribution to society is being voted out or resigning - a logical question arises - why should the House, or the Senate, or even the President for that matter, work any hours in a world in which all the heavy lifting, or any lifting, is borne by the monetary authority, i.e., the Fed, which makes sure nobody in power has to make any decisions ever again just by pressing CTRL-P a few billion times every day.
Finally, while we are amused by the naive thinking that members of the House earn "only" $174,000 per year or however much per hour, it is not their wages that make most members of Congress millionaires. In fact, as the following chart shows, the 50 richest members of Congress all have a net worth of $7.5 million or higher!
They did not earn this money by collecting a paltry salary. Instead, they made it through kickbacks, bribes, and other "lobbying" funds. All of which, of course, are perfectly legal in the circus that passes for US government.
It is that which should be the target of public ire, not how much Congressmen make on an hourly basis. Because when one factors in all the undisclosed sources of funds, it is then that one would get a per hour number that would rival some of the best paid hedge fund managers in the US.