Sen. John Fetterman, Pennsylvania Democrat, campaigned amid a wave of health woes, including a stroke that left him for all practical purposes incoherent; won the seat anyway; and after serving only six weeks in office, left for Walter Reed treatment of clinical depression.
He’s still there. Taxpayers sure are good to this man.
But he’s just the latest example in a long list of examples of the lucrative perks and benefits that come from serving the people in a federal congressional capacity.
There’s a reason most in Congress are millionaires.
It’s because they get treated to a separate and definitely above-the-average-and-not-at-all-equal standard of employment.
U.S. senators are paid a base salary of $174,000 per year. By contrast, the average salary of workers across America is $74,738 per year, according to Census Bureau data. The average salary of Pennsylvanians — the people Fetterman directly serves — is $43,875 per year, according to Talent.com statistics. World Population Review, meanwhile, finds the 2023 mean household income in Pennsylvania stands at $87,262 a year; the median, at $63,627.
However you shake it, Fetterman — as well as all U.S. senators — earn far and away more than the average bear.
In Fetterman’s case, his money comes from doing nothing. And for that, he gets pitied.
“We want to give him the space to recuperate,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Fox News reported. “He needs it, it’s fair. It’s right.”
Is it really?
It seems neither fair nor right to expect tax payers to continue to pay a man to do nothing.
The private sector has rules that limit an employer’s ability to fire a worker who misses massive amounts of work due to a health or medical matter. But then again, the private sector probably wouldn’t hire a person whose health was so blatantly bad — so obviously poor — in the first place.
Voters in Pennsylvania are solely responsible for Fetterman; are solely to blame for the taxpayer drain he’s become. It’s not as if warnings of his health issues didn’t abound before votes were cast.
But the fact that Fetterman is able to serve and draw a substantial salary, all the while being treated at taxpayer expense for a medical issue that should have prevented him from seeking, never mind winning, the public service seat at all is just another nagging annoyance — outrage — outrageous example — of the realities of congressional perks.
“10 Perks Congress Has That You Don’t,” The Motley Fool wrote way back in 2018. Among? Free parking at the airports; free flights to their home states — and at select spots around the world. Free and mostly free on-site gyms in the House, complete with swimming pool, sauna, steam room and more. An on-site beauty salon so as to not inconvenience those needing a quick cut for the evening cable news cameras. Insider trading information that gets overlooked all the time by media. Dozens and dozens and dozens of days off — paid. Health care and health care subsidies that rival anything in the private sector. Cushy retirement and pension plans — the details of which are often classified as “private,” and therefore not privy to the filings of Freedom of Information Act requests. Generous spending accounts. And more.
And what’s more, not much has changed over the years.
They get their own elevators and dining spaces on Capitol Hill, so they don’t have to deal with the petty peons called ‘the people.’ They get their own underground subway system that shuttles them from office to office. They get the ability to pen legislation that exempts them from certain laws — like FOIA — so their true activities can never be fully gleaned by a wondering and paying public.
They get ever-increasing tax dollar amounts, via Members Representational Allowances, to hire their office staffers.
“In 2022,” the Congressional Research Service reported, “MRAs ranged from $1,751,880 to $1,967,213, with an average of $1,826,590.”
They get separate tax-paid accounts to furnish their tax-paid state and mobile offices — as CRS wrote, “There is no restriction on the number of offices.” For their Washington, D.C., space, they get furnishings supplied by the Architect of the Capitol and Senate Sergeant at Arms, with an allowance to buy separately through the Senate store — all tax-paid.
They get tax-paid office equipment.
They get tax-paid car service.
They get trickle down opportunities that include media love, publisher love, lobbyist love — all lucrative in their own ways.
“With COVID on the wane, Congress is back to global travel — on your dime,” USA Today wrote in March.
“78 members of Congress have violated a law designed to prevent insider trading and stop conflicts-of-interest,” Business Insider wrote in January — but where’s the accountability? Where’s the jail time?
“Congress considered banning lawmakers from trading individual stocks, but Democratic leaders never acted on legislation,” Business Insider went on.
Oh. That’s why there’s no accountability. That’s where the jail time went.
“Majority of lawmakers in 116th Congress are millionaires,” Open Secrets reported in 2020. In 2012, the average of a U.S. senator’s net worth stood at roughly $13.5 million; of a U.S. representative’s, at $5.7 million. In 2023, the five richest members of Congress clocked in with at least $200 million each. But really, in the end, who knows the true numbers? As Open Secrets wrote, “It is difficult to gauge what a lawmaker is worth because disclosure forms do not require exact values.” Likely, what’s reported is the low ball. And yet, we all know it’s more than what the average citizen who payers these members’ salaries and life-long benefits are earning.
“Yes, Congress has disproportionate share of millionaires,” PolitiFact wrote in 2020.
And now the path circles back to Fetterman. The least they could do is show up for work.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter and podcast by clicking HERE. Her latest book, “Lockdown: The Socialist Plan To Take Away Your Freedom,” is available by clicking HERE or clicking HERE or CLICKING HERE.
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