One of my conservative friends posted the below graphic up on Facebook today, launching a long string of enraged comments about how awful government is, how overpaid elected officials are and how those same people don't respect teachers and those serving in the armed forces.
Many of the comments were along the lines of "yeah, we should gut government pay and cut off retirement funding for them" as people expressed their displeasure about the deficit being so high and "we the people" paying elected officials so much.
Sure, elected officials may indeed be paid too much for what they do. And sure, people who really need or deserve more don't get it.
But, there is SO MUCH WRONG with the graphic and the prevailing sentiments expressed by the commenters. It's a great example of complete bullshit being dressed up in riotous indignation and put out to get a reaction. Where to start?
First, whoever created this graphic...in their mania to rage against the government...misspelled the simple "we." See it? While I'd never hold myself out as a perfect speller on keyboard, come on.
Next, notice there are no citations for any of the facts stated - not the salary figures, not the terms of retirement, type of soldier or pensioner...nothing. Gotta wonder about that.
Third, even if you take the numbers on the graphic as true...the grand total for paying the 4 retired presidents + the speaker of the House + the 4 majority and minority Congressional leaders + every member of Congress for one year is: $86.6 million. Sure, that's a lot of money, and it's not great that we pay out that much. But hey, compared to overall budget it's nothing. And, compared to what a person could earn in the private sector, it's a pittance. Put it this way, those who lead Wall Street banks and big multi-national corporations would call $86million a rounding error in their pay.
Which brings me to the biggest point I'd like to make on this: while it's fun and easy to carp about how much we pay elected officials and posture about how we should "cut their pay" and such, that's not the problem.
Nope. Rather, it's a diversion. A diversion from the real problems we face, such as...billions and billions of dollars in tax revenue going uncollected each year as rich individuals or corporations manipulate tax law to avoid paying any tax (GE) or very low rates (Mitt Romney and his ilk).
How about...instead of quibbling over payment to elected officials, we close tax loopholes? How about instead of railing against the $450,000 we pay a retired president every year, we get upset about the $3.2 billion a company like GE chisels you and me out of every year all while simultaneously outsourcing good paying jobs to other countries? How about that?
What if our government had the benefit of, I don't know, $150 billion more in tax revenue every year because people and companies paid their share? Think that might help pay teachers and soldiers a bit more? Or, might that help with the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?
I do. Now...I wonder if I could express all this in a chart?