Washington Knows Your Pain But Never Feels It

Economically speaking, Washington pols have nothing in common with middle class Americans. NOTHING. They are all, every one, in a different economic class.

Here’s the numbers:

The President has a salary of $400,000 a year and every member of his cabinet $200,000 a year. Every senator and House rep has a salary of $174,000 a year, except for the Speaker whose salary is $223,000 and the majority and minority leaders with $193,000 salaries. Along with these salaries, of course, come health, retirement, and other fringe benefits that collectively would embarrass a Middle Eastern sheik.

The entire ambiance in which Washington pols operate is awash in big bucks. The average lobbyist in this country has a salary of just under $100,000 a year, but the top lobbyists in Washington earn between $1 and $5 million a year, and they earn this giant nibble because they are the ones who hobnob most often with Washington pols. A fair number of these big nibblers, by the way, are former congressmen and their staffers. Million-plus earning lawyers and consultants are also regulars in the social and work circles of Washington pols.

To get reelected these days people in Congress have to spend a hefty share of their working hours hustling money from rich contributors. This activity shapes their thinking by letting them hear over and over how the very rich are suffering and must be better serviced. It also fosters the delusions among Washington pols that they themselves are just middle class working folks since the sources of these contributions are even better fixed than they are.

Not always better fixed, though, because so many elected officials these days are very rich before going to Washington to help govern. Indeed, their wealth often greased the way there. And if they weren’t rich going to Washington, for divers reasons they somehow end quite rich before leaving, if not directly, then via close relatives who somehow are so well qualified to get high-paying jobs tied to the government trough.

Oh. And if you think that just day-to-day, out-of-the-office doings brings Washington pols closer to life in middle class America, think again. Washington has the highest medium income of any metro city in the United States, $84,523.

Compare all this to middle class reality elsewhere in these United States. The median income here in 2011, according to the Census, was $50,054. Only 10 percent of Americans make more than $143,611.

No one gets more information about middle class life than Washington pols. They swim in the stuff. But while these pols know about middle class pain on paper and via the airways, none actually experience it. Feel it. NONE.

None have worries about how to pay their own or their immediate family’s health bills. None need be concerned about paying for their children’s college costs. None are worried about an impoverished retirement without a decent pension. None are being turned down for personal loans by a bank. None are worried about meeting their next month’s rent or mortgage payment. Real middle class worries these days for these pols are intellectual abstractions.

I think it would improve governance in this country if people who make economic policies were actually exposed to its consequences. That isn’t going happen. So get ready to feel a lot more pain generated by people who won’t feel any of it.

(Two novels by the writer of this post, Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan and The Bellman’s Revenge, are available on Amazon.)