Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,11 June 2013

The Snap:

I’ve gotta be honest with you: I love not working. Well, really I’m happiest when I don’t see cubicles/office doors even if I work longer hours at home on freelance projects. Based on these preferences, I probably should’ve chosen Congressperson on career day since they spend about half of the year in the office and half in “recess” (they get mad when you call it vacation). Considering how much of that half year consists of fundraising for reelection or election to a higher office, the hours spent doing the actual job that we elect them for seem even paltrier. Don’t worry though, I’m sure that has no bearing though on their ability to work together to accomplish legislation of substance.

The Download:

The average Congressperson makes $174,000 per year. This year, the House of Representatives will be in session for 126 days (leaving 239 days in recess). When they travel home—generally every Thursday evening, returning to D.C. by sundown on Tuesday—travel costs are footed by taxpayers. But let’s leave the overwhelming perks out for now and just look at salary-to-days worked. If they were to be paid only for the days they’re in D.C. (since their job is to represent their constituents in the capital let’s assume that they should actually spend time there), they’d earn about $1380 per day. To be fair, their jobs are awful. The amount of buttkissing…er…fundraising they’re supposed to do is staggering. In order to be reelected to another term, they spend 1/5 their workday fundraising.

I’m not trying to imply that Congresspersons spend all the livelong day relaxing or taking glamorous fact-finding missions (well at least not most of them). They reportedly work about 70 hours a week and I foolishly believe most ran for office because they cared about their home district or state and wanted to do good. The trouble is that the bulk of their workdays aren’t spent representing the interests of their constituents back home; it’s spent trying to ensure they maintain their hold on power.

One former Senator has the crazy idea of instituting a 5-day workweek. Senator Olympia Snowe and other former and current Congresspersons believe that if members of the House and Senate actually stayed in D.C. and got to know colleagues on both sides of the aisle, maybe the 113th Congress wouldn’t surpass the breathtaking craptasticness of the previous session which was the least productive since 1947. It’s harder to focus all your energy on trashing a colleague to the press and campaign donors when you’ve shared a meal in each other’s homes or seen them with their kids.

So what’s the answer? Although I think there’s still a strong argument to be made for replacing Congress with my dog, I think pushing for the 5-day work week is a start. But to really get to the heart of the matter, campaign reform should be our battle cry. Is it crazy to think Congress should spend more time working than they do running for reelection?

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Hat Tips:

ForbesCongressional Research ServiceHuffington PostPoliticoNational JournalNPRUSA Today, Image Credit: Flickr

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