May 22, 2013

Editorial: Don't cut pay for Congress


---- — Congressman Bill Owens of Plattsburgh, representing the massive 21st District that embraces 11 counties, has done some good things since he was first elected in 2009. For instance, forming a local committee to advise him on agricultural matters is inspired and could very well prove extremely effective in addressing the needs in this vital industry, particularly here in northern New York.

One of his initiatives of which we don’t approve, however, is his determination to freeze and even cut salaries for himself and his fellow members of Congress.

On the surface, the effort looks generous, sacrificial and ultimately good for all Americans. Give it some more thought, though, and it has some fatal holes.

The base salary for a member of Congress is $174,000. For most of us in the North Country, that seems like a supremely attractive figure. It isn’t.

Consider that superintendents of some schools in our area, to say nothing of our hospital administrators, make more. Does it make sense to pay the superintendent of an area school more than a person representing an entire region whose job is to pass laws that will guide the fortunes of the whole nation?

And think of the job security. While school superintendents most assuredly have headaches, they at least have contracts and, in practice, would have to botch things pretty badly to be removed from office.

Members of Congress have a job for two years only, whereupon they must run again, begging for another two years.

During those two years, unequaled heaps of criticism must be endured. Each member has built-in detractors, either from the opposite party for from advocates for something the Congress member voted against. One-issue critics abound in every corner of every election district.

They have to be conversant on a multitude of national and international issues while also representing the very local concerns of their congressional district.

Perhaps worst of all for the smart and responsible members are their fellow members who are not so smart and responsible. These days, Congress has suffered a mountainous loss of esteem because of too much politics and too many members who have transgressed in one way or another.

Who would put up with the demands and the aggravations of a job that requires so much and pays so little? Sadly, only the wealthy or the retired. For others, giving up a career for two years of ill-paid harassment is out of the question.

Cut salary?

Certainly not. Instead, raise pay so all Americans would be able to take a crack at it. Then, maybe performance would improve.