What have ‘We the People” done to Ourselves?

C. Ray Collins, DALLAS, TEXAS July 21, 2020

 

In all my life, I never thought I would ever write about our government. This isn’t about politics—nor about Republicans and Democrats. It is about the things we should not be letting happen in our Congress.

The things I will list are well-documented and have been on most news networks at some point. You can do your own research on several different “.gov” websites if you want to. My complaints aren’t something new. It is the same-old stuff that had been said just in one place, simplified, for all to see at once and act on. I’m just one person, reaching out to the rest of “We, the People”, to stand up and change the most outrageous things Congress has done. It can’t go on. They are spending our tax money on things that only apply to them.

I’m not going to list everything. These are only the things I know about. I will express these as simply as I can.

In the real world, none of these things would ever happen, and they shouldn’t have been passed by our Congress. It shows how out-of-touch Congress is, how selfish congressmen are, and how little they really care about us—“We, the People”.
If this doesn’t stir up your emotions and make you want to change things, then nothing ever will.
C. Ray Collins

These problems aren’t in any particular order. I wrote them just as they come to my mind.

1. SALARIES

Let’s talk salaries. This is a matter of public record, easily found on the Web. Congressmen and representatives make $174,000 a year. If you are head of a committee, Speaker of the House, or another higher-up position, your salary is a little higher. The Speaker of the House’s salary is $232,000 a year. They can have other income—as long as it’s 15 percent or less of their government salary. There are some restrictions on how that income is made, but that can add up to over $93,000,000 in congressmen salary minimums per year.
Now, this doesn’t sound that out-of-whack with private-sector, management salaries, but let’s look a little deeper. Let’s talk about time in session—like the amount of days they spend in session, or days they work.

For representatives, who propose bills for laws, they are in session an average of 138 days per year. That’s about three days a week. That means they are off 227 days a year—62-percent of the time, they are not working! That includes weekends and holidays.

In reality, they are getting paid for 227 days a year they ARE NOT WORKING. They only work 38 percent of a year. What? Does this happen with a real job? No, not for teachers, professional athletes, policeman, nor firefighters. There isn’t anyone who has a job like this.

I know, I’m not being fair. I know they have committees to attend, people to visit, hands to shake, people to harass, bad checks to write—and it takes time to fly home to see the family. But, all of this is at our expense! We pay for everything.

Senators, who decide what bills become law, are a little better. They have worked an average of 162 days a year since 2001. This means we are only paying them 193 workdays a year when they are not working. By the way, that is almost 27 weeks of free salary. That means, with the same holidays and weekends as mentioned before, they work 47 percent of the time for a full salary. I am not sure what they do during the other 53 percent of the year. Maybe they take vacations, work on their farms—they all seem to have farms—and meet with the Russians. They don’t visit foreign countries during their time off, either. They do that during their normal workdays. Imagine that. Who knows what they do!

What I do know is that they spend very little of it seeing what you want for your state and country. By the way, when was the last time you saw your Congressman or representative at home, talking to the people of their state? Have you ever visited with your government employee? I know they have town hall meetings, and they show up at different functions. But most of this is “party”-related stuff and has little to do with you. They seem to forget who they work for. Don’t you forget—they work for you—“We, the People”.

Now, thinking about that salary. Together, they are at work 42.5 percent of the time. Then, maybe their pay should be cut by 57.5 percent. I’m just thinking about the average guy on the street, and that’s not fair! I know they have other duties. So, let’s cut their pay by 45-percent. That leaves room for them to work some days they don’t. That would save our country about $41,900,000 per year. That’s not too bad.

Remember, some make more—up to $232,000 a year. So, I’m being very generous.

Wait, I can’t do that. Neither can you. Guess who set the salary for congress? That’s right! Congress does, and that is the LAW. So, let’s go back and talk about the law. Who puts a bill forward for a law? Your representative. And who decides on what bill becomes law? Your senator!

This means we have never had a say in how much they get paid, or how often they increase their pay. Sure, they are set up on a cost-of-living rate, like the rest of the government, but they can still increase the salaries when they want to. I must note, they haven’t increased their pay since 2009, but they are looking for 1.6-percent cost-of-living increase for 2019. If the economy stays good this year, they may decide to increase their pay.

Just to recap a little: our employees, representatives, and senators—who work for us—decide what their salaries are, which is $174,000 per year. They decide how many days they work, which is average of 138 days for your representative and 162 days for your senator.

And we have never had a say-so in either of these. Remember, these people work for us, right? Or do they work for themselves?

I think it time to set some new laws. Congress should have never been allowed to set their own salaries or decide how they work. This is about as unethical as it gets!

If this was a large company, there would be a board with some non-employees setting the salary for their management.
Keep this in mind as you continue to read. If their pay matched their workdays , we could save about $42,000,000 in just salaries, alone.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let move on to chapter two.

2. ALLOWANCES:

Be sure you are sitting down for this. It can be a little overwhelming.
Both the representatives and senators get expense allowances. These cover anything and everything—including staff, travel, offices in both Washington and their home state, and other business expenses.

Let start with the representatives. They can get up to $1,488,000 a year for expenses. They cannot pay a salary over $162,000 to any individual and can have up to 18 staff members. They can have offices in Washington and their home state. They can fly home with one staffer, if needed.
Since 2009, the representatives have averaged around $1,300,000 for expenses per year. With 435 members, that works out to $565,500,000 per year, which “We, the People” pay in taxes. They still can take $3,000 deductions on the tax for their expenses. If they use what is allowed, that is $647,280,000. I can’t find anything that says this money is not used or returned to the budget. So, I assume it’s used somehow.
This is just for each member and their staff to carry out their required duties. Say you have a business with 12 people. You pay one of these people $120,000 a year. You have four people you pay $70,000, and the rest get an average of $40,000 per year. That is a total of $680,000 per year in salaries. That leaves about $800,000 for other expenses. Washington offices typically cost $10,000 per month, and home offices typically cost $5,000 a month. That totals to $180,000 a year. That still leaves $680,000.

Utilities, Internet, travel, and other expenses can add another $20,000 per month, which still leaves $440,000.

I think have been reasonable in my example—which shows they would spend about $1,000,000 per year.

Now, the senators. They do a little better than the representatives, but of course, they work 14 days more. Each senator receives an allowance to cover the same items as the representatives. There aren’t any restrictions on the staff members, nor on the staff salaries. Each senator can get up to $4,815,203 for their expenses. Since 2009, they have averaged about $3,200,000 per year. That’s a total of $320,000,000 per year that “We, the People” pay. Again, this is only for themselves and their staff to do their required duties. The total amount of the allowance for senators is $481,520,300.

Again, using the same plan as the representatives—which is about 67-percent of the total—they could get by with $2,144,000 per member per year.
That total expense is about $1,128,800,300—yes, billion—and that is what we will use for my example. I can’t find any way that says that money is not used or returned to the budget. So, I assume it’s used somehow. That’s bigger than some of our states’ annual budgets.

There aren’t any reasons for this to be so high. With the technology of today, I think our representatives and senators could spend more time at home in their state. We have video conferences, conference calls, emails, and texts. Why do they even need to be there—in Washington?

I know there are still things that take place in Washington, such as congressional hearings, committee meetings, government functions, etc. Let’s allow a little time for those things. I think two weeks out of every two months would be more than enough. Even if they want to vote on bills—that to can be handle during those two weeks. Everything else can be managed from their state. That’s how the big companies do it, and our government should do the same.

Plus, the staff can now be from the state where they live, and the state can benefit from these expenses. The senators and representatives will be where they are more accessible by the people who put him in to office. Imagine that!

That still puts them in Washington 12 weeks a year. That is plenty of time to hobnob and get the latest gossip. Just what would the news outlets do? Report on something “We, the People” care about?

If I match their salaries and days worked, I could cut this expense allowance by 61 percent. However, this would cut out the need for one office and some of the staff. So, I think the example amount—45 percent—is a fairer amount. That would be about $479,402,300 of savings to our country.
But, I’m not finished with allowance. Congress, itself, has an allowance, sort of, for government business. You know, where they represent us to the world and some of its silly formalities.

There isn’t any budget set up for this.

But, they have set up where the budget office is required to pay for their overseas flights for whatever reason. There aren’t any restrictions on their travel—whether it’s to a war-torn country to look at its economy, or attending high-level weddings or funerals. Just join a committee and see the world for free.

In 2016, the budget office said this cost around $20,000,000, and it came out of whatever fund they found to cover the cost. This was just for commercial flights. They estimate about double cost where they fly on military planes each year, which comes out of the military budget, just a drop in the bucket with their budget. This puts foreign flights at about $60,000,000 per year for Congress members only, which has nothing to do with the military or the president.

I’m not sure why we need to spend this much money for overseas flights with the technology we have now. We have satellites with cameras so good, it is like being there. Once again, with video conference and conference calls, I’m sure we could cut out at least half of this budget. I hear the military-passenger planes are nicer than commercial planes. So, with this said, we could save another $20,000,000 for our country.

Understand, this is only for flights. There are still expenses that incur while in the foreign countries. Hotels, site-seeing, transportation, security, meeting, food, and other expenses are covered by the Embassy, and this expense runs millions of dollars every year. But, we are not talking about the Embassy budget, as that would be another story.

There are other things, such as printing, which the government does on a budget of $126,000,000 a year, and about 25 percent of that budget is for members of Congress. That’s $32,000,000 a year. Really? We have emails, texts, and social media. Why do they need free postage? They aren’t mailing out any checks. That works out to about $60,000 to each member per year, or about $400 per day worked per member. I think it will be easy to cut this in half and save our country $16,000,000 a year.

The list could go on, but I didn’t find the budget for some of the other things, and I don’t want to make any assumptions in this writing. Have you been offered any trips overseas by our government? I didn’t think so. Let’s do a little recap on our savings on simple and logistic changes:

$42,000,000 on salaries.
$479,000,000 on business expenses.
$20,000,000 on foreign travels.
$16,000,000 on postage and printing.
That’s a total of $557,000,000 of total savings per year so far, and I’m not finished. That is over half a billion dollars wasted a year!

3. HEALTH CARE
This is a touchy subject, and some things are hard to understand. So, I will try and make it as simple as I can.
Some believe that Congress exempted themselves from the Affordable Care Act, but they are wrong.
The senators and representatives must use the Affordable Care Act to get their insurance. Yep, just like the rest of us— or maybe not! They don’t fall under any state insurance program. They fall under the federal employees plan.

With this plan, they have several companies from which they can get insurance. I’m sure this is for your benefit only, because they also have an insurance plan setup just for them. It comes through the Small Business Administration. Now, if the senators or representatives use this insurance, the federal government will pay for 75 percent of their insurance. Yeah, that’s you and me. So, which insurance do you think they use?
So, if the insurance costs $1,200 per month for a family plan—which is probably cheaper than the average—a representative or senator would only need to pay about $300 a month. Not bad. How are you doing off the insurance exchange? Is your allowance taking care of you? If you qualify for one, I bet you are not doing nearly as well as they are.

I have worked for a large cooperation, which covered about 50-percent of my insurance. For a family plan, the cost was about $1,600 a month, leaving me to pay over $800 a month for my insurance. That is not too bad, but I had a deductible of $2,500 per person, or $10,000 per family, per year. For most people, if they had $10,000 to pay for their deductible, they wouldn’t need the insurance.
I tried to find out more about their insurance, but I was unable to see any details of their plan. Some say their deductible is zero, while others say $1,000 or $1,500. Either way, it is better than what most Americans have—but this is just hearsay. Remember, we pay for 75 percent of their insurance costs.

Now, they also have access to Congress’s doctor and dentist, which doesn’t cost them anything. That’s right—zero cost. And, they have access to military hospitals for free. Unlike our VAs, they don’t even need to wait in line.

Now, when they leave Congress, the congressional insurance plan is gone, right? Wrong again! They get to keep their insurance, and get this: we continue to cover that 75 percent. We have 535 members of Congress, with an average of $1,200 per month for insurance, which means we pay for about $900 per month for each member—not counting the ones who have already left Congress. That $10,800 per year per member. That’s about $5,800,000 we pay per year—only for the active members. At any given time, there are 100 retired congressmen still living. That is another $1,080,000. Add that to the activity members, and that puts us just under $7,000,000.

If they changed it so they were paying 50-percent of their insurance, that would save us about $1,750,000 per year. Not that I want to be hard noise, but we shouldn’t be paying for insurance for the ones who have already left congress. That would be another $750,000 a year in savings—for a total of $2,500,000 per year. I know in the big scheme of things, this is a drop in the bucket, but this could pay for more policemen, firefighters, etc.

Just a note: a business can buy insurance through the SBA as well. It is probably not the one they use, but for the normal people like you and me, SBA is not available. No surprise.

I’m a Native American, and I’m exempt from the Affordable Care Act. I can get my care through the tribal health care. So, there aren’t any biases in this report. I’m not being affected like most Americans, but I can still see the different standards for the people in Congress and the common people. There are so many things they do with our money that just doesn’t make sense. They spend hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries—some that don’t even like us. The spend hundreds of billions of dollars for research on things like turtles, owls, mice, etc. They spend millions on special committees, like Major League Baseball. They spend money on limousines and hush money for lawsuits filed against our representatives and congressmen for harassment. This list could go on and on. I could not find a confirmed budget for these things, but they do exist.
One last thing: When you hear them fighting over the budget every year, the senators and representatives’ salaries and expenses are not part of that discussion. They stand alone. Now, you know why they fight so hard to stay in office. It’s a sweet deal we pay for.
Are you upset? You should be. It can’t keep going on. STAND UP, “We, the People”!

C. Ray Collins

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