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Frank Salvato

It was only a matter of time I suppose. Some Progressive-Democrats in Congress are floating a bill to make the taxpayers pay for their housing in Washington, DC, even as they receive over $170,000 a year in salary. Keep in mind this excludes what they get to spend on travel and expenses related to their campaigns.

 In a measure that would ban members of Congress from sleeping in their offices, Rep. Bennie Thompson (P-MS) has introduced legislation that we should all hope fails miserably. In addition to the ban, HR5845 proposes to allow Congress creatures to write-off up to $3,000 on their taxes toward their Washington, DC living expenses, even as it calls for taxpayer subsidized housing – dormitory-style (actually it would be closer to condominium-style) for all members of the US House of Representatives.

 Citizens Against Government Waste, a taxpayer watchdog group, points out that the average cost of a studio apartment in Washington, DC clocks in at about $1,602, which would be roughly 10 percent of any member of Congress’s taxpayer-funded salary. The common percentage the average American plays out of his or her salary for housing is closer to 30 percent.

 Where to begin.

 My initial response is to suggest that If they want subsidized government housing they should be obligated to live in the same subsidized housing in which those on welfare live. It would give them first-hand knowledge of the horror associated with living in these complexes; the violence, the lawlessness, the drug culture, etc.

 But then I immediately focused on the obvious. If someone can’t make it on $174,000 in annual salary – in addition to the amount of monies they get to pull from their never-ending, bottomless campaign coffers – then they shouldn’t be charged with spending and budgeting for the country. How are we to trust our elected officials to negotiate pharmaceutical prices or wrestle with reforming the tax code when they can’t even manage a $174,000 paycheck to include $19,224 for housing?

 This financially bloated mentality is the stuff of $554.78 toilet seats, a 13-foot-long, $3.4 million turtle tunnel in Florida,  that cost the taxpayers $3.4 million, and millionaire House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $22,000 per-hour-to-operate government jet, costing taxpayers about $480,000 per month for her back-and-forth flights to California each weekend (a commercial jet would cost around $2,000 per month).

 Those signing on to this spendthrift legislation are all Progressives and Democrats: James Clyburn (D-SC), Hank Johnson (P-GA), Elijah Cummings (P-MD), and Marcia Fudge (P-OH). The infuriating thing about Cummings is that he can easily take a commuter train from his primary residence in Baltimore to DC when he needs to be in DC. In fact, may people commute, workweek, between the two destinations.

 In addition to this insanely extravagant piece of elitist legislation, the idea of getting all of the Congress swamp creatures in one location in extension of the time they already spend in the fraternal halls on Capitol Hill together would be to permanently engrain elitist factionalism into the Legislative Branch of our government, even more so than it is already.

 In the beginning, the Framers insisted that those elected to Congress and appointed to the Senate receive only a per diem. They made no provisions for a “salary” for these public servants. Since those days, political opportunists have created the “professional politician”; societal panderers who never stop campaigning, never stop manipulating the emotions of their constituents for their own professional gain; and who carve out perks and premiums for themselves and their brethren; all of whom feed from the publicly funded government trough.

 Here’s a thought. Instead of making it easier for elected officials to stay in Washington, DC, why don’t we make it harder for them to do so? Let’s make it harder for them to live in the swamp; to cavort with other swamp creatures; to facilitate the back-patting, smoky backroom DC deals that now make Chicago politics look responsible.

 Making these swamp creatures spend more time in their home districts and less time with the national party leaders would not only make them more accessible to their constituents (the people they are elected to serve) but it would make it harder for the political and lobby factions in Washington, DC (read: the national political parties) to pressure and own them, respectfully.

 This would be a great thing for out country…a great thing, indeed.

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