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For Clairo, “the third time’s the Charm.”
Review: “Charm” by Clairo
Published July 21, 2024

Courtney: We should pay our politicians more.

A few small changes to our politicians’ incentives would ensure they work for us all, not just the wealthy.

I have a radical belief that the people in our society with the most meaningful, consequential jobs in our society should be paid the most. Though there are many that I could name, three of the most important jobs in our society are doctors, teachers and parents. Doctors are already paid well, as they should be. Paying teachers more has long been a thing that those on the left and I have advocated for, and most Democrats are on board to pay parents more through the extension of the child tax credit expansion. 

Paying our most important professions more is good for us all. If we have good doctors, teachers and parents, the society as a whole will benefit. The best way to ensure the best people will flock to the most important professions is to pay them more (revolutionary logic, I know). There is another, often under-considered profession where the same logic holds true: politicians. 

I know that this take is controversial. Politicians are supposed to be public servants. They aren’t supposed to make a fortune off the position they hold. I agree; this is actually part of why we should pay our politicians more. 

In Washington, congresspeople in both houses make $174,000 per year. I recognize that this is no small figure, but considering the cost of living in the Washington D.C. area and the need to have somewhere to live in your home state as well, it isn’t as high as one might think.

Still, this figure remains, admittedly, quite high. Another reason we should consider raising our politicians’ pay is their ability to make more money when they leave office through corporate lobbying. This problem is multifaceted; first, if politicians can make more money elsewhere, they’re less likely to value the position they hold, and they don’t need to take voters’ concerns seriously. Second, if they could increase their pay by lobbying on behalf of a corporation, they are far less likely to be critical of said corporations while actually in office. 

This issue isn’t just limited to congresspeople, though. Presidents should be paid more than their current $400,000 salary and their $221,400 post-office pension. Though these numbers are already fairly high, they’re not much when compared to the amount of money past presidents can and do make in other ways. For example, from the time Bill Clinton left office to the time his wife, Hillary Clinton, launched her 2016 presidential campaign, the couple made over $153 million from paid speeches. 

When people assume elected office, their duty is to work for the people they represent as a whole, not to represent the specific interests of corporations, Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry or anything else. It isn’t controversial when I say that this isn’t always the case today. We need to change our politicians’ incentives to ensure they work for us all, not just the wealthy. A great way to do that is by 1) raising their pay and 2) barring them from making any money in other ways, whether that be stock trading, post-office corporate lobbying, paid speeches or anything else. 

I’ll admit one thing: my proposal — to drastically raise the pay of our politicians — would be horrible politics, though it would be great policy. I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon because of this. But we the people should want it to happen. Even tripling the pay of every congressperson would only cost approximately an additional $348,000 per member (it gets a little messy with the slightly higher pay of the majority/minority leaders, House Speaker, Senate President pro tempore and a few other titles, but you get the point). Raising the pay of the President by five times would only cost $1.6 million more per year. These figures amount to practically nothing in the bigger picture; our federal government spent $4.4 trillion (that’s $4,400,000,000,000) in fiscal year 2019.

A cliche line holds true here: you get what you pay for. If we keep underpaying our politicians and allowing them to collect money from elsewhere, we should expect our politicians to continue to underperform for the people as a whole and continue to do a good job for the wealthy. Good policy proposals like mine would change the incentives of our lawmakers, ensuring they work for us like they’re supposed to. 

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  • Deanna
    Feb 11, 2022 at 11:33 am

    The thing about paying politicians more is….that is not really an incentive to work for all the people. We have too mss as my politicians who have special interest groups in their wallet…and since there are no term limits….they can sit there and do absolutely nothing for decades….and why aren’t we voting them out? Good question.

    Politicians need to work from a humble position of needing to do good….not because they are getting paid…but because they want to.

  • Meat Eater
    Feb 10, 2022 at 6:16 pm

    An employee of mine tried to convince me to double his pay and he would do twice as good of a job.
    I told him he was fired since his performance was only half what it should be.
    He now works for the student newspaper at his college, an unpaid position, which is close to what he is worth.