Posted tagged ‘congressman’

Conflict of Interest: Do Congressmen’s Compensation Exceed the $250,000 Being Discussed For Tax Cut Renewal?

December 29, 2012

Today’s financial cliff drama and sound bytes focuses on the amount of annual income below which the current tax rate is not increased.

Income levels of $250,000, $400,000 and $1million have been floated around.  My question is: do our Congressmen have a conflict of interest given their annual compensation of at least $174,000?  Per a January 2012 Congressional Research Service report:

“Since January 1, 2009, the compensation for most Representatives and Senators has been $174,000. Compensation for the Speaker of the House is $223,500, while the President pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate receive a salary of $193,400.1

I wonder what is the average annual income for a Congressman?  Those that are married are probably filing jointly with a spouse so that income is included as well as is any other revenue from business interests.  There may be other income sources from investments (The median net worth for a Congressmen – $878,500 for Democrats, $957,500 for Republicans – far exceeds the country’s medium household net worth of $96,000 in 2009.2)

That at least some members of Congress jointly file federal income taxes each year in excess of $250,000 is not an unreasonable hypothesis.  It appears there is an actual or perceived conflict of interest among Congressmen on this matter as they debate an income level of $250,000 vs. $400,000.  As a responsible constituency, we are compelled to ask: “Who specifically is benefiting?” and “Is that a meaningful percentage of Congress?”  These have the appearance of having ramifications beyond “the interests of small business owners.”

This takes on a new perception when the US poverty level for 2011 is defined as total family yearly income of <$22,350 (for a family of four)3  and the average median household income in the United States from 2007-2011 was $52,762.4.  This begs the question, if we pay our politicians more than three times the medium household income in the country and we get the dysfunctional results we have today, how do we change compensation to reflect the value received by the US people?  Just as the commercial sector cannot always police themselves and requests outside intervention, Congress’s recent actions suggests its members cannot responsibly govern themselves.  Given the country’s financial stress, the politician’s themselves should share the financial burden and should renew the tax cuts on incomes below $250,000.

References

1. Burdnick Ida A, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress (4 January 2012), Congressional Salaries and Allowances. Page 1.  Retrieved from: http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/112_20120104.pdf

2. Luhby, Tami, The One Percenters In Congress (8 May 2012) CNN Money.  Retrieved from: http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/08/news/economy/congress-net-worth/index.htm

3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (20 January 2011). Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines (Federal Registry Notice). Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/11fedreg.shtml

4. U.S Census Bureau, People Quick Facts (2011).  Retrieved from: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

Roles and Responsibilities of Elected US Government Officials

December 24, 2011

The following piece was originally written and published July 29, 2011, as the US Congress was trying to address the country’s finances.  Appallingly,  politicians publicly display ignorance over the Constitutionally defined responsibilities of the legislative and executive Branches.

Last night prominent career politicians showed this ignorance again on late night television shows.  The Speaker of the House and Senator John McCain, among others, chastised the US President for holiday shopping instead of crafting tax legislation.

While anyone can create a bill, only a Congressman can introduce it for discussion, debate and vote.  What I see is Republican Congressmen attacking a Democratic President for not creating legislation when that is Congress’ responsibility not the President’s.  Political party affiliation aside, are our elected politicians actually fulfilling their job duties?  Read the Constitution, specifically Articles I and II detailing the powers of Congress and the Executive Branch, and decide for yourself.

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

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The Roles and Responsibilities of US Elected Officials: Its Breakdown November 2010 to July 2011 over the Debt Ceiling

July 29, 2011

The inability for US elected officials to reach agreement on financial matters today is significantly rooted in their misunderstanding of their roles and responsibilities.  It surprises me the Republican Speaker of the House (the Legislative Branch) openly and continuously attacks the Democratic President of the United States (the Executive Branch) for not furthering along legislation.  This breakdown is more striking than any specific detail of any legislative proposal forwarded today.  Yes, there are a lot of very technical financial points and components to this very complex problem, but who is responsible for each part does not correspond with the actions of our leaders.  We as a constituency need this clarity to determine if we (1) elected the right people to do the job and (2) they are effective at accomplishing it.

Some background:

The Executive Branch has asked for what it needs to solve a problem caused by conflicting Legislative branch mandates: that the Legislative Branch raise the amount of money it authorizes the Executive Branch to borrow to meet the budget the Legislative Branch authorized the Executive Branch to spend.  The Executive Branch has threatened to veto legislation that does not solve its problem.

As a summary primer, our Founding Fathers divided government into three main parts: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.  Broadly, the Legislative branch determines the rules or laws of the country, the Executive branch runs the country on a day-to-day basis following these rules, and the Judicial branch (among other duties) settles any disputes that arise and are presented to it.  The Legislative Branch, also called Congress is comprised of the House of Representatives (direct representatives of the people) and the Senate (representatives of the States).  These writings today only focus on the Executive and Legislative Branches.

While anyone can create a bill, only a Congressman can introduce it for discussion, debate and vote.  What I see is a Republican Speaker of the House attacking a Democratic President for not creating legislation when that is Congress’ responsibility not the President’s.  Evidently the House of Representatives portion of Congress does not agree with the Executive Branch’s request; however, that does not abdicate the House of Representatives of its job of proposing, debating and voting on proposed legislation.

The fact that the Executive Branch needs to mediate a discussion between the two chambers of Congress, the Legislative Branch, is again revealing.  This is not the responsibility of the Executive Branch.  Just because the elected leaders of the Executive Branch and the Senate are from the same political party does not mean the separation of duties somehow simply disappears and assigned responsibilities shift.  The further breakdown appears to be that the leaders in Congress are not having constructive discussion.  If they are, their representations to the constituency through the media belie that.  I personally do not want liars, deceivers or those unwilling to have public, candid discourse on difficult topics representing me as elected officials, whether they are doing their jobs well or not.  Today, I see dysfunctional leaders in Congress not effectively executing their responsibilities.