Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The New Nobility

In the Early American Republic of blessed memory, such eminences as George Washington declined titles, much in use in England at the time. The moderns, as Zach Janowski demonstrates in “Raising Hale,” have no such compunctions.

In the 36-member Senate, there are 36 titled officials. In the more modest House, “only two out of three members gets a fancy title” – and an extra stipend to boot.

The House listing by dollar is here, and the Senate listing here.

Mr. Janowski unwittingly has presented a strong argument for a unicameral legislature. Such an organ of popular representation would be less titled, more broadly representative and more responsible to the sort of people Washington thought were virtuous, economical and modest.


Fuzzy Dunlop said...

I agree with you that a unicameral legislature makes a lot of sense. But I'm still always struck by how little our legislators make, even with the added bonus for certain positions. Consider Speaker Donovan... is there any doubt that being Speaker is essentially a full time job? Granted, the hours are greatly reduced when the legislature is not in session, however the grueling hours legislators are required to work while the General Assembly IS in session make almost impossible to have any kind of normal job. Instead, legislators are required to either be a) independently wealthy or b) have jobs outside of work that are happy to make the tradeoff of employee productivity for influence (see Larry Cafero, partner at Brown Rudnick).

The real cheddar is not in being a legislator, but being a staffer. Consider Derek Slap, former news anchor and now spokesman for the Senate Democrats. He is the mouthpiece for a PARTISAN caucus, a position that is wholly political, and he rakes in 111,000 per year. George Gallo, chief of staff for the house Republicans, takes home a cool 152,000 a year... again, for a partisan position. Folks coming into entry level positions, e.g. legislative aides, executive aides, etc. etc., are, as a rule, making about 10-20K more a year than entry level managers in almost any other company. Meanwhile, newly minted prosecutors are often required to work for a year or so on a per diem basis, without health benefits, and even then cap out well BELOW what mssr. Gallo is making. Where the hell are our priorities?

In sum, if we want to cut waste in legislative salaries, it is best done by reducing both the number of staff (which would be done indirectly by going to a unicameral legislature as you propose) and also the salaries they make (simply bring them in line with the private market for Chrissake). Attacking the salaries of already underpaid legislators seems like a snipe hunt.

Don Pesci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Pesci said...

Brilliant. If it were up to me, I would condemn all legislators to write their own press releases. Between us, I’m sure we can think of some other punishing things for them to do.

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