Mr. Cope’s Cave: Minimum Work


Here is what you and I (and all the other taxpayers in America) paid Raul Labrador this year: $174,000.

Just this year... $174,000.

Not to pick exclusively on Mr. Labrador. Representative Simpson got the same paycheck, as did Sens. Risch and Crapo. By the end of this year, the people of America will have paid out $696,000 for Idaho’s four congressmen, alone.

There are 535 members of Congress, counting both House and Senate. If my calculator is correct—and I have no reason to believe it isn’t—the total payroll for Congress in 2013 will be $93,090,000.

(But wait. Don’t stagger off and puke yet. We’re just getting started here.)

Congressional leaders get more than $174,000. Eric Cantor, as the House majority leader, will have earned—if “earn” is a word that can possibly apply to Eric Cantor—$193,400, almost $20,000 more than the un-titled congressmen and women. And by the time the year turns, John Boehner will have made $223,500 for being the House speaker, a job he performs whenever he isn’t playing golf or laying under a tanning lamp.

(I keep saying “will have earned” or “will have made” because I don’t know whether these guys get monthly checks, bi-weekly, or weekly or what. You and I, of course—along with all the other wage-earners in America—get paid in retrospect, yes? We get paid for work or duties or functions we have already completed or performed or fulfilled. However, it doesn’t seem likely that congresspeople are compensated for any tangible results they have produced over the preceding pay period, does it? So I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone hands each one of them a check for the full $174,000 in early January, along with the advice: If you plan on pissing away the whole year accomplishing nothing for the people who sent you here, at least try not to get caught messing around with strippers or driving drunk—advice some follow more successfully than others. Am I right, Sen. Crapo?)

But back to what these mutts are costing us. The $93,090,000-plus we pay Congress is only the “tip of the iceberg,” as they say over in Trite County. To cover the costs of keeping a residence in Washington D.C., of keeping an office staffed and running, and of keeping all that glossy self-promotional material flowing through the mail, Congress itself set up a budgetary arrangement called the “Members Representational Allowance.” The average layout from the MRA is $1,353,205.13 per year, per congressperson.

(I will pause for a moment to let that figure sink in.)

That’s right. Assuming he is average—and we all know he is—Raul Labrador is allowed in the neighborhood of $1,353,205.13 to keep a pad near the Potomac and hire whomever he wants to answer the phones and empty the trash down at the office. (And if his wife is good at that sort of thing, well...)

The MRA budget for last year, 2012, was $573.9 million. Combine that with the $93,090,000 that Congress gets paid, and we have $666,990,000. That’s what this 535-headed beast is costing us every year: $666 million, and change. (As Curly might say: Ain’t that a revoltin’ revelation!)

And get this: They are scheduled to report for work a total of eight days this month. Eight days. And if they all manage to show up for the whole eight days, that will mean they worked a total of 126 days this whole year long—on average, less that two-and-a-half days a week.

(Incidentally, a bit more calculator work, and we learn that when he isn’t in front of a camera trying to show the world how important he is, Raul makes just more than $1,380 per diem. That is, on those days when he is actually doing the job he was hired to do.)

(Please, save your puking until I am done here.)

It was announced this week: In terms of legislation passed and accomplishments accomplished, this current crop of puffer people is now officially the least productive Congress, ever. In all of U.S. history, the 113th Congress wins the title for doing the least, and costing the most. And anyone with an ounce of integrity knows who’s doing it. Or not  doing it, as is more appropriate.

(Hint: It’s not the party of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid that is not doing it.)

Let us close by remembering a few of the things that did not get accomplished by this Congress, even as it collected its $666,990,000:

New bridges did not get built, and old bridges did not get repaired. Same with highways, sewer systems, school buildings, high-speed rail lines and anything else that a civilized country must have if it intends to continue calling itself “civilized.”

Immigration policy remains as confused and ineffective as it has for decades because immigration reform did not get done. Judges did not get appointed; education did not get improved; medical research did not get funded; work bills did not get passed; polluters, Wall Street predators, corporate power-mongers did not get regulated; food, safety and health inspectors did not get hired; military families did not see their misery relieved; etc., etc., etc.

(If you still feel like puking, now is the time to do it.)