Representative Moran likes to point out that those who serve in Congress are obliged to maintain dual households at great expense. He speaks of these hardships as if he and his colleagues are relegated to sleeping under their desks at night. Lord knows, they probably spend enough time sleeping there during the day. Remember, he is the one who wanted the job in the first place. Remember something else as well when you are aggrieved over his hardships: when our nation was founded, serving in Congress was an honorary and part-time position. Those elected to serve were only expected to meet for limited term sessions each year in order to conduct the essential business of the nation. Over time, those we elected to office have passed legislation to make the job full-time in order to justify their continuing salary and benefit increases. On top of that, since they are hanging around all the time, they further justify their presence by continually enacting unnecessary and cumbersome legislation which eventually causes us citizens more heartburn and chips away at our freedoms. Wow! Aren’t you glad they turned it into a full-time job?
Representative Moran complains that Congressional compensation has been frozen since 2009 and now he wants a “bump." Well, think about this: if you were making $174,000 a year, what would a good “bump” be in terms of annual income? Remember, this guy is making the equivalent of $87 an hour, almost $700 a day. He is in the 28% tax bracket at the very least. (He may be at an even higher level if he has other income sources or if his spouse earns additional income, but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll assume he’s at 28%.) Given that, will a 5% raise help much? That's another $8,700 a year in pay, but nets out to just over $6,200 in that tax bracket. In effect, we are raising his gross hourly pay by $4.35. I seriously doubt that Representative Moran can support raising the pay of unskilled workers somewhere between 40% and 100% and then happily walking away with a paltry 5% added to his own pocket. On the other hand, a 5% raise to the average worker in today’s economy would be a boon, though certainly not very common. Most of us in the private sector would be ecstatic with a 5% increase. My gut tells me that the Congressman would be happy with a 5% increase only if it were retroactive to 2009—in other words, 5% per year for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013—well, you get the picture. Collectively, that becomes one fat paycheck!
In the private sector, if we are not getting paid what we think we are worth, we might decide to quit our job and look for greener pastures. But having done so, we may find that the “greener pastures” are rather hard to come by because compensation for any given skill-set is determined by the competition for it in the marketplace. In effect, like water, it finds its own level rather than being artificially elevated by those with less than an objective perspective on the matter. It sure would be nice if we all could vote ourselves increased compensation simply by claiming we deserve it.
But Representative Moran did not seek greener pastures by leaving his position in the House. Oh no, quite the contrary—he continued to seek re-election eleven times and has held onto that grossly underpaid position for what will amount to 24 years when he retires at the end of his current term. Actually, Moran has been on the public dole for much longer than that and likely in jobs that were less rewarding. He worked for five years in the 70’s as a budget officer with the Department of Health, Education & Welfare. He also held the position of senior specialist for budgetary and fiscal policy in the Library of Congress for a time. From 1976 to 1979, he served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He then dropped out of federal service after being elected to his hometown city council in Alexandria, Virginia. From there he moved to deputy mayor and then, in 1985, managed to win election to the high office of mayor of Alexandria. He resigned that position after running for Congress and getting elected in November 1990. No doubt, his congressional position has paid better and comes with more benefits than any of his previous positions, yet Representative Moran is displeased with his pay.
We might also make note of the fact that Representative Moran’s 8th Congressional District is an area of northern Virginia that is richly sprinkled with many, many federal defense contractors. In light of that, one cannot help but conjecture that “other benefits” just might be readily available to anyone holding the office representing that sector of the economy.
Back in 2007, Moran was estimated to have a net worth exceeding $12 million, much of which might have been attributable to his wealthy second wife who divorced him 2010. According to Moran’s financial disclosure, he is now among the least wealthy serving in Congress and claims that he will enter into retirement with only a money market fund with assets of approximately $15,000. The average private-sector person would not even attempt retirement with only $15,000 salted away, but Moran’s federal pension plus the power and influence he will wield from his congressional committee service will prop up the lack of finances quite nicely.
So, as the Democrat Representative from Virginia’s 8th Congressional District heads out the door into retirement, keep your eyes peeled to see where he turns up next. I guarantee you that it won’t be on the front porch, sitting in a rocker and sipping mint juleps. No, I believe you will see the former congressman in his suit and tie out peddling his influence to those federal contractors in his old district, making sure they understand that he can deliver the pork to their front steps for the right price—a price which will far exceed the financial dreams of any rank and file congressman only earning a paltry six-figure paycheck.
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