The President, in an attempt to show that he is still The President, yesterday appointed a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The colloquial name of the group will be the Deficit Reduction Commission but it should be named the "Throw the Bums Out" Commission.
There are 535 voting members of the House and Senate. For the most part they make an annual salary of $174,000. Members of the leadership make more, but that only makes me more angry.
If you multiply 174,000 by 535 you get $93,090,000. That's 93 MILLION and change. Just for salaries. Add to that health and retirement benefits, taxpayer paid staff (personal in Washington, personal in their home state, and Committee staff) and office space, thousands of hard working men and women who do everything from deliver the mail to clean their offices, assorted perks which include paid visits to France, Italy, London and other important hot-spots; and who-knows-what tax benefits and you see that being a Member of Congress is not all that much of a sacrifice.
In fact, keeping Members of the House and Senate living in the style to which they have become WAY too accustomed will cost us about $4,656,000,000 for FY 2010.
For those who, like me, are comma-deficient, that's a bit over 4.6 BILLION dollars. For one year.
We are paying these Members of Congress over $4.6 billion to, among other things, make decisions on our behalf. That is the working definition of a representative democracy. We don't have to vote on every little thing because we pay - a lot - for these 535 Representatives and Senators to do it for us.
Except the system has gone awry. Incumbent Members of the House and Senate don't want to make decisions. Quite the opposite; they want to avoid making decisions. At any cost. Even if that cost is $4.6 billion.Thus, the appointment of a Deficit Reduction Commission.
This is not the first time the Congress has bailed out on its responsibilities. Aside from post offices in every ZIP code, the next biggest barrel of pork a Representative or Senator can deliver is a military base.
Over the course of a couple of hundred years, the bases which had been established based upon seniority rather than national defense had become so ridiculous that it became obvious - even to the Congress - that something had to be done to close many of them.
You might think that a serious person could stand before his or her constituents and say that in the interests of national security the military base here in Upper Iguana has outlived its usefulness and should close.
What the Congress did was punt by passing legislation appointing a Base Relocation and Closing Commission (BRAC) which would present to the Congress a full slate of which bases should close, which should stay, and which should be expanded which the Congress could accept or reject in total.
I'm not at all certain about the Constitutionality of this extra-Congressional activity, but its been going on since 1988 and no one has raised the issue.
Here's my suggestion. For every year that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is in business, every Member of the U.S. House, U.S. Senate; every staff member and every employee of, and contractor to, the Legislative Branch should have their pay reduced by 15 percent.
If that $4.6 billion is correct that will save taxpayers a touch under $700 million a year. Ever year. In an era of multi-trillion-dollar budgets that might be a drop in the bucket; but it will be coming out of the buckets of the people who are supposed to be making the tough decisions, but who aren't tough enough to make them.
If Members of the House and Senate won't do the job we're paying them to do, we'll pay them less to do the job they are doing.