Daniel Schuman over at Slate thinks that we should give Congresspeople a raise. Which is true. But his frame is that we should give them the raise “that they deserve,” and his logic is that, boo-hoo, the $174,000 a year salary that congresspeople get is $43,000 less (after inflation adjustment) than they got in 1992.
Nobody gets my sympathy for making $174,000 a year (and with some awfully nice benefits, at that). And congresspeople deserve a sharp kick in the teeth a hell of a lot more than they deserve another $50,000 a year.
But that said, we live in the world we live in, and wishing for decent congresspeople won’t make them decent. Congresspeople’s social status puts them into a society with various super-rich people, and keeping up with the Joneses is clearly a pressure on them. Most importantly, it’s cheap to do. If we can throw $50,000,000 a year at additional Congressional salaries and prevent even one major corruption event because a Congressperson doesn’t feel as much pressure to live above their means, then it’s money well spent.
Desert is a dubious concept almost every time it’s brought up — if you start thinking about policy by talking about what people deserve, 90% of the time you’ll come up with bad policy. And it’s particularly bad here. And Matthew Yglesias’ spin that with a higher salary, Congresspeople will be more able to research their legislation and be better technocrats is the utter triumph of hope over experience.