Should Congress Be a Part-time Job?

When the Continental Congress first met in 1774, it was made up of farmers, businessmen, lawyers, teachers and preachers who all had full time jobs in their respected professions.  The first meeting lasted less than two months and all of the delegates returned home to their families and jobs.

When the US Congress first convened in 1789, it was again made up on farmers, businessmen, lawyers, teachers and preachers who all had full time jobs at home.  Congress met for part of the year allowing for the newly elected senators and representatives to return home to their families and businesses.  In these days, they were paid a daily per diem of about $6 for their public service, which meant that they had to rely largely on their private jobs to sustain them.

It was only as the federal government began to grow out of control that the job of serving in Congress became a full time profession.  Once that happened, they managed to pass laws to give themselves numerous financial perks.

Today, members of the House and Senate get paid $174,000 a year for their public service.  I’m not sure if anyone really knows how much more they make in perks and privileges, but it does run into the thousands of dollars.  Paying congressmen and senators to be fulltime politicians has only resulted in a gluttonous government that suffers from all of the side effects of being oversized and out of control.

On top of that, they have a pension plan that starts paying them for serving a minimum of 5 years in office.  They can start collecting their pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 or more years in office.  Currently, the pension plan pays them 1.7% of their annual salary for the first 20 years and 1% for each additional year after that.  That calculates out to $59,160 a year for any congressman who served 20 years in office, and $76,560 for anyone serving 30 years.

Perhaps this is why Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is launching a new 30 second commercial this week in Iowa, touting the possibility of once again making Congress a part-time job.  In the commercial, Perry advocates cutting their salaries and staff in half and sending them home for half the year.

Perry’s solution would save taxpayers over $46.5 million dollars a year just in the reduced congressional payroll.  Add the savings of the reduction of staff members and other benefits including a reduction in their pensions and the savings could easily reach $100 million a year.

The larger savings would be the forced reduction in the amount of legislation they could accomplish in a shorter time in Washington.  Less legislation means the government shouldn’t continue to grow at the same rate it has been, and in fact could actually start to decrease in size, much like a person put on half rations for a few years.

While I may not agree with Perry on some of his ideas, this is one I like and would endorse.