As a condition for reopening the government and possibly averting a debt default, House Republicans want to hand Congressional staff a massive pay cut by eliminating their health insurance subsidies. So this seems like a good time to ask: Could Hill workers afford a massive pay cut?
Hardly. MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff points out that inflation adjusted pay has been mostly stagnant in Hill offices for years, with most staffers earning somewhere in the range of $30,00o to $60,000. According to a 2010 report by the Sunlight Foundation, which produced the chart below, only chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and schedulers have seen their salary go up notably since 1990.
There are two big concerns here: class and competency. As Resnikoff noted on Twitter, the less Congress pays it staff, the harder it will be to work there for anybody who isn't independently wealthy. It's bad enough that getting a job on the Hill unofficially requires a stint as an unpaid intern. Just imagine if toiling there meant paying for your own health plan out of pocket.
Which brings us to the second issue: brain drain. Congress already has a revolving door problem, and without some kind of drastic change in the law, always will. But making pay and benefits even stingier is only going to encourage more staffers to find cushy jobs at trade associations and lobby shops. And by cushy, I really mean jobs that pay them something close to what they're worth.
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