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Posted at 1:41 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Cuts for thee, but not for me

By Greg Sargent

The other day, the Associated Press reported that House Republicans were going easy on their own budgets for staff and salaries even as they hack away at the budgets of many federal agencies.

Along these lines, constituents in Arkansas' third district recently had a question for their new Congressman, freshman GOP Rep. Steve Womack. If Republicans are cutting the budget, why not cut proportionally into their own salaries and benefits, too?

A local Arkansas paper reports that Womack gave his constituents an interesting answer:

More than one person asked Womack, during and right after the public meeting at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale, why members of Congress couldn't trim their own salary and health benefits as part of the many other domestic programs facing cuts.

Womack responded that, while mayor of Rogers, his city health-care plan was a far better value than the one he has in Congress.

"My income is $174,000 a year," Womack said. "I do make a sizable amount, more than many people in this room, but I am not a wealthy person."

Much of a congressman's income must go toward traveling back and forth between one's district and maintaining two households, he said.

"I'm not one of the guys who wants to live on my couch -- I don't think it's healthy," Womack told the audience.

Emphasis mine. I tend to be a bit uncomfortable with Dem efforts to tar Republicans as hypocritical because they are accepting their Congressional health benefits and generous salaries even as they proceed with budget cuts that will badly impact the lives of others.

But what you're seeing here are the political perils of the "belt tightening" metaphor. If officials are going to keep telling us that in lean times, government must "tighten its belt" in the same manner that families must tighten theirs, then constituents will naturally ask those officials why they aren't tightening their own belts. And pleading for sympathy because your $174,000 annual salary is barely adequate to cover your two households doesn't seem like the best answer.

By Greg Sargent  | March 1, 2011; 1:41 PM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, budget  
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Comments

Greg, the central tenet of Republican economic theory: the more money you have, the more you deserve it.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 1, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

And the corollary is "the less money you make, the less you deserve even that. Remember someone in [fill in country] will do your job for $1 a day."

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Not a great answer but in my neighborhood a family income of $175,000 is solid middle class - nowhere near "wealthy".

Posted by: sbj3 | March 1, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

wait. members don't pay for their own travel to/from the district. that comes out of their office budget, right?

Posted by: NoVAHockey | March 1, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

OT: "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says a plan from House Republicans to cut $61 billion in spending this year would not harm economic growth."

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/801-economy/146705-bernanke-says-house-republican-plan-would-have-small-effect-on-growth

Posted by: sbj3 | March 1, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

If all 435 congressmen made what Womack makes, it would be around $75 Million a year. Out of a budget of over $3.5 Trillion.

And you are trying to make an issue of this?

Posted by: Bailers | March 1, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

NoVaHockey, yes, travel to and from their districts comes out of their annual office budget, not out of their salaries.

Posted by: LAB2 | March 1, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

If all 435 congressmen made what Womack makes, it would be around $75 Million a year. Out of a budget of over $3.5 Trillion.
And you are trying to make an issue of this?"


Who are you, a refugee from Redstate.com.?
Get it through your thick skull, it's not the amount of money, it's the principle of the thing. You know - shared sacrifice.

Posted by: filmnoia | March 1, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm just curious. What could this Representative have said to sound just a wee bit more sympathetic with people who are unemployed, underemployed and waiting for their pink slips? And keep his $174k/yr salary intact, I mean. Something like "at least I'm not unionized, because everyone knows they're the real greedy bast'erds". Or, how about this, "I pay 1.3% of my pay toward **my** pension benefits. How about you?"

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

LAB2: "travel to and from their districts comes out of their annual office budget, not out of their salaries. "

So then, the Congressman LIED to his constituents.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | March 1, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Get it through your thick skull, it's not the amount of money, it's the principle of the thing. You know - shared sacrifice.
---------------------------------------------------
That gives me an idea. Womack could have said this: "Listen, $174k a year is chicken feed next to what I could be making as a lobbyest, so I **am** sacrificing already."

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Umm Greg, challenge this guy on:

"Much of a congressman's income must go toward traveling back and forth between one's district"

I'm going to guess not only does he get paid for traveling back and forth to DC via travels and incidentals, he also gets money for eating in D.C.

http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/21287

Posted by: mikefromArlington | March 1, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

This is such a childish argument. What's next for the left? Are you going to stick you tongues out and cry neener, neener, neener?

If this is the best you've got then it is fair to conclude that the current situation is indefensible, even by you guys.
but by all means, continue with the childishness. I've come to expect no more and you've never disappointed.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 1, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Playing Chess online is a great technique to enhance mental abilities. Many schools have a Online chess training program
added as a part of their curriculum to inculcate and enhance the rational thinking.

Posted by: gchess | March 1, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

This sort of question is why Republicans and politicians in general are well-advised to refrain from engaging in inflammatory and hyperbolic language about union benefits and salaries.

While I understand the alleged goal is to cut on expenditures, if union benefits are outrageous or somehow unfair, what's the argument that all similar benefits aren't similarly unfair?

It seems they would be much better off with more measured comments about double-dipping and other more obviously abusive actions. Or, alternatively, take a similar hit to what you are requiring other public employees to take.

However, measured comments don't usualy get the Pavlovian, spittle flecked, drool laden, saliva throwing responses from certain union hating posters. Just a little shout out there.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 1, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"Not a great answer but in my neighborhood a family income of $175,000 is solid middle class - nowhere near "wealthy"."

@SBJ Which is a great post in that it explains your total callousness and complete lack of sensitivity. You have gold plated health insurance and so you were against single payer...ACA..and virtually all iterations of any help for the rest of us.

* Arkansas's median income is $38,134 ($12,006 less than the national average of $50,740) 07 figures.

Allowing for inflation since then the Rep makes at least FOUR TIMES what the average person in his state earns.

Yeah we get you loud and clear SBJ.
If your high school annual had a pic and category for IGMGFY there would be a photo of the beaming SBJ. You're all heart dude!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: rukidding7 | March 1, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I am sympathetic to members of congress as I understand DC is expensive and given how much time they spend back in their districts, it no longer makes sense to move their families to DC for the legislative season as they used to.

That said, most jobs don't fund you flying home every weekend if you choose not to move to your place of employment.

Also, given that most of their flights home are to attend fundraisers for re-election, I wonder if the taxpayers should be paying for so much air travel. Would it be so terrible if they were only funded to fly home every second weekend instead of every weekend?

Make their campaign funds pay for additional flights home if they're so important.


Posted by: Scientician | March 1, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

@ruk: I'm not ashamed to admit that I (also) look at proposed legislation in terms of personal impact.

Posted by: sbj3 | March 1, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Worth noting from the AP article Greg links to in the first paragraph:

"When Democrats took over Congress in 2007, they inherited a $3.8 billion budget for Congress. That includes money for members' and leadership offices, House and Senate committees, and support agencies such as the Capitol Police and the Congressional Budget Office, which crunches numbers for lawmakers as they consider legislation.

Since then, that budget has risen to $4.7 billion, a 23 percent increase over four years. The biggest jump, 11 percent, occurred when President Barack Obama signed a Democratic-written spending bill just after he took office in 2009."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110205/ap_on_re_us/us_keeping_congress_flush_3

Posted by: jnc4p | March 1, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Domestic Travel (to and from District/State)
House: Included in office expenses is a minimum amount of $9,700 (2003), with additional funding based on a formula that uses the distance from Washington, DC to the farthest point in the Congressional district from Washington.

http://www.thecapitol.net/FAQ/payandperqs.htm
-----------------------------------------------------
Maybe Rep. Womack's district is too close (or too far) from D.C. Maybe that's his beef. What is his beef again? That he doesn't make enough money?

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

@skippy: "What's next for the left? Are you going to stick you tongues out and cry neener, neener, neener?"

There's some top-rate GOP analysis for ya!

Yes Skip, there there. It'll be ok.

Oy vey.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician "Make their campaign funds pay for additional flights home if they're so important."

I think this is illegal under the current campaign finance laws.

Posted by: jnc4p | March 1, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

skip- you really think it's childish to expect politicians to take a pay cut or contribute more to their pension and health care when they are asking their constituents to do so? Particularly when the constituents are making 1/3 of what the politicians are in some cases? I don't think it's childish to point out when leaders are failing to lead.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 1, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Funny:

-Issa Fires Spokesman After Email Controversy-

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has fired his spokesperson, Kurt Bardella, after Politico raised concerns that Bardella had shared emails from other journalists with The New York Times' Mark Leibovich.

"While our review of allegations raised by Politico is not yet complete, it has become clear that the committee's Deputy Communications Director Kurt Bardella did share reporter e-mail correspondence with New York Times journalist Mark Leibovich for a book project," Issa said in the statement. "Though limited, these actions were highly inappropriate, a basic breach of trust with the reporters it was his job to assist, and inconsistent with established communications office policies. As a consequence, his employment has been terminated."

...

"The practice of sharing reporter e-mails with another journalist on a clandestine basis would be egregiously unprofessional under any circumstances," Harris wrote

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/issa_fires_spokesman_after_email_controversy.php

This was the spokesperson for the Chairman of Govt Oversight! Bwaahahahaha!

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I am sympathetic to members of congress as I understand DC is expensive and given how much time they spend back in their districts, it no longer makes sense to move their families to DC for the legislative season as they used to.

Posted by: Scientician | March 1, 2011 2:28 PM

Perhaps they should move their families to DC and stay in town more than three days a week, actually *legislating* for a change.

Posted by: northgs | March 1, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it's childish to point out when leaders are failing to lead.
---------------------------------------------------
Here's an analogy. The Marine Corps likes to point out that their leaders are not in the back lines, they are up front **leading** their men, ''we all bleed the same” say the Marines. (the USMC then goes on to taunt the other services that their leaders are sitting in their barcaloungers in the back--but that's fodder for another day)

Rep. Womack is taking the Barcalounger in the back lines approach to "leadership" instead of leading by example. Everyone gets it when they're confronted with "do as I say, not as I do".

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

OT:

-Mitch Daniels's memory lapse on the budget surplus-

Daniels's recounting of economic history is misleading. He conveniently airbrushes out of the picture the Republican president -- George H.W. Bush -- who did the most to reduce the budget deficit. Instead, Daniels praises Reagan, who had helped create the soaring budget deficits that so bedeviled Bush and then Clinton.

Moreover, Daniels's assertion that the surplus was bound to disappear in any case is too cute by half. The projected surplus was the main reason why George W. Bush said - repeatedly - that the nation could afford a $1.6 trillion tax cut. Certainly, when Daniels was budget director, he did not suggest that the surplus was "going away."

The surplus vanished because of policy choices made by the president whom Daniels served -- some of which arguably left the nation less fiscally equipped to wage two major wars after the Sept. 11 attacks.

3 PINOCCHIOS

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2011/03/mitch_daniels_memory_lapse_on.html

More on Issa:

-Rep. Darrell Issa fires trusted aide Bardella-

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/01/AR2011030103857.html

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

As an aside -- if you ever wanted to know why you can deduct mortgage interest on a second home ... what segment of the population owns two homes and might sit on the tax writing committee? :)

Posted by: NoVAHockey | March 1, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Worth noting again:

"Daniels praises Reagan, who had helped create the soaring budget deficits that so bedeviled Bush and then Clinton."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2011/03/mitch_daniels_memory_lapse_on.html

Translation: Reagan and his disciples suck at budget management.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

in response to this:
===================
While I understand the alleged goal is to cut on expenditures, if union benefits are outrageous or somehow unfair, what's the argument that all similar benefits aren't similarly unfair?

==================

We have the same problem with the legislature that we have with the unions: the tax payers have no seat at the bargaining table. The legislators can pay themselves as much or as little as they please.

and your choice of words is intentionally misleading ashot. We're not debating about the "constituents" but about a tiny, over paid, under perform subset of "constituents", that is state gummint employees. That's just in keeping with the tone Mr Sargent set. How dare the right omit facts that the left finds important? Why such a distortion is the sole province of the liberals.

Nice try.

and yes, as leaders, they have an obligation to model the behavior they expect. Just like Trumka and the Democrats from WI have an obligation to model the behavior they expect from those they "lead". How's that going?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 1, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"We have the same problem with the legislature that we have with the unions: the tax payers have no seat at the bargaining table. "

Wrong.

We have the most important seat: the ballot box.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | March 1, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

There is going to be a hearing in Madison at 2:15 CST regarding the opening of the State Capitol building to the public, something Walker's lawyers are fighting against. Walker gives his State of the State address at 4pm CST. Wanna bet that this malignant weasel busses in the Joe the Plumber types to pack the gallery? Just the way Da Mayor -Dick Daley did at the Dem convention of 1968 when he packed his cadre of city workers up in the cheap seats?

Posted by: filmnoia | March 1, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

and yes, as leaders, they have an obligation to model the behavior they expect. Just like Trumka and the Democrats from WI have an obligation to model the behavior they expect from those they "lead". How's that going?
----------------------------------------------------
Let me get this straight. Leader#1 is going to wait until Leader#2 does the right thing before Leader#1 is willing to lead.

Maybe we should look up the definition of a leader and compare that with the definition of a follower, because I think you have the two definitions flipped.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"Wanna bet that this malignant weasel busses in the Joe the Plumber types to pack the gallery?"

That has been reported as a rumor going around.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

sorry honey, but let's look at the facts. The turnover rate in our legislature is miniscule. the "penalty" for voting themselves raises is negligible. Who will raise such an issue in the face of million plus dollar ad campaigns funded by union dues?

No, 12bar, I never said that. I pointed out that the "argument" the left is using is childish. It amounts to "yeah but what about Jimmy, Mom?"

If the left expects others to abide by the left's variable definition of "leadership" then the same benchmark gets applied to all.

Do you really want to go down that childish road? Wouldn't it make more sense to look at the facts? The taxpayers are done. We're done. No mas.

We're starting with the state gummint employees because our states are broke and the unfunded pension liabilities are unsustainable. And, when they are not vacationing in Aruba on our money they are in our faces daily.

But entitlement reform won't be long in coming. We're broke, we're not paying anymore to a wasteful government so things have to change. And now.

obama, reid, pelosi didn't wait. Neither will we.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 1, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

WOW.

@benen:

"""The GOP war on government spending is set to claim an unexpected casualty: port security in New York and New Jersey.

A measure passed by the House to fund the rest of the fiscal year would slash federal anti-terrorism cash for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by a stunning 66%, a Daily News analysis found.

Nearly $34 million was budgeted to help keep the ports safe, but the Republican-led House voted to spend only $11 million in its proposal to cut $61 billion this year."""

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y) said this week, "From a security perspective and a dollars and cents perspective, it's very shortsighted, it's dangerous, and it's wrong.

Of course, King voted for the Republicans' spending plan, despite the fact that it included this shortsighted, dangerous, and wrong provision.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2011_03/028234.php

GOP, ummm wtf?

Ummm, national security????

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

"tiny, over paid, under perform subset of "constituents", that is state gummint employees"
---------------------------------------

Wow...hard to dispute such "facts".

It didn't leave out the above information because it's farcical. I hope all of your fellow conservatives incorporate such a stance into their political platforms. You just may succeed in getting my "gummit" employed mother to vote democrat for the first time.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 1, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

All, here's what Ben Bernanke actually said today about GOP budget cuts, despite what you keep reading:

http://wapo.st/g48LQe

Posted by: Greg Sargent | March 1, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

If the left expects others to abide by the left's variable definition of "leadership" then the same benchmark gets applied to all.
-------------------------------------
Like I say, you better look up the definition of a leader. You're so caught up in your tail chasing paradigm of "I'm going to do what you did", that you don't see how much of a follower you are.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | March 1, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

you guys make this entirely too easy:
==================
Wanna bet that this malignant weasel busses in the Joe the Plumber types to pack the gallery?"

That has been reported as a rumor going around.

===============

Oh you mean, like the Democrats have done since day one? Once again, the left is astounded that the right would fight back using the left's play book.

what is so vastly amusing about this isn't the anger of the liberals. Oh no, it is the fact that they basically have no idea how to deal with their own techniques when they are on the recieving end.

Again, reading Mr Sargents whine-o-gram about his words being used out of context is a perfect example. He was on the receiving end of one of the lefty's favorite techniques. He hated it too. Gosh, ain't that just a pity?

Sauce for the goose, my children, is sauce for the gander.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 1, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

ashot, let me restate. You wrote using the word "constituents". I read that to mean, all of the people residing in his district.

but not all the people in his district are state government employees. Many of us view this in much starker terms: we cannot afford the lavish compensation that the state employees currently enjoy. Further many of us just plain resent the fact that these people do little and retire at least ten years before the rest of us, living on the taxes paid by the rest of us.

It is really the taxpayers VS the taxeaters. The Democrats and liberals are firmly on the side of the tax eaters.

Now defend that.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | March 1, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"sorry honey, but let's look at the facts."

First off, I'm not your "honey" you sexist piece of cr&p.

"The turnover rate in our legislature is miniscule. the "penalty" for voting themselves raises is negligible. Who will raise such an issue in the face of million plus dollar ad campaigns funded by union dues?"

Since most rightwingers seem unconcerned about "million plus dollar ad campaigns funded by" big business, consider me unimpressed by your concerns.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | March 1, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

skip- Given the context of our discussion, I think it's pretty clear the constituents I referred to were public union members, but I apologize for the confusion.

"we cannot afford the lavish compensation that the state employees currently enjoy."

You constantly make statements like this but have never produced a shred of evidence that public employees enjoy lavisth compensation. Since you love anecdotal evidence, my mom works for a local county, makes around $40,000 a year and contributes to both her health care and pension and has had furlough days decreasing her pay. She has never been to Aruba and hardly lives a lavish lifestyle.

"Further many of us just plain resent the fact that these people do little and retire at least ten years before the rest of us, living on the taxes paid by the rest of us."

Again nothing to back up the claim that they do little or that they retire at least ten years before the rest of us. Your resentment is clearly what's fueling your position. I will also point out that my non-union teacher brother gets a pension from the State of Georgia so even if you eradicate unions, you'll still have people to resent.

I also recall a poster saying that the Wisconsin pension is fully funded they had a link and everything.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | March 1, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

This was the spokesperson for the Chairman of Govt Oversight! Bwaahahahaha!

Posted by: ronnieandrush
__________________________

Wow, someone lost their job today and you are laughing about it. Nice sensitivity there. Jerk.

Posted by: Bailers | March 1, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

This was the spokesperson for the Chairman of Govt Oversight! Bwaahahahaha!

Posted by: ronnieandrush
____________________
Wow, someone lost their job today and you are laughing about it. Nice sensitivity there. Jerk.

Posted by: Bailers | March 1, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Dude,
he was fired for an ethical breach. Kind of conduct unbecoming and all that. Feel bad for all the teachers that are going to be laid off in WI so Walker can get brownie points from the Koch brothers not the guy fired for cause.
...or do you ride a mercury surfboard or something?

Posted by: dont_remember | March 1, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"""Wow, someone lost their job today and you are laughing about it. Nice sensitivity there. Jerk."""

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

You think I care about some right wing idiot who lost his job because he abused his power?

Why, that's the reason I was laughing in the first place. He didn't "lose his job"...

HE WAS FIRED.

Do you know the difference?

Posted by: ronnieandrush | March 1, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Curious why intelligent people engage with skipsailing. He's so obvious a troll.

Many typographic and sentence structure similarities with QB, in case you hadn't noticed.

Posted by: caothien9 | March 2, 2011 12:45 AM | Report abuse

As a few posters have noted, the congressman tried to bamboozle us by saying his travel expenses come out of his pocket, when they don't. Next time he goes before an interviewer he should be pressed to clarify.

Posted by: leroyferg | March 2, 2011 3:43 AM | Report abuse

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