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Right-Wing Lies & Status Updates

Cross-posted on The Daily Kos:

The following has been circulating around Facebook as a status update for the past few days:

Salary of US President…………………….$400,000
Salary of retired US Presidents ………….$180,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of House/Senate …………………..$174,00?0 FOR LIFE
Salary of Speaker of the House …………$223,500 FOR LIFE
Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders ………$193,400 FOR LIFE
Average Salary of Soldier DEPLOYED IN AFGHANISTAN $38,000
I think we found where the cuts should be made! If you agree…REPOST…..keep it going……

Those right-wing trolls sure are industrious little buggers, aren’t they?  But, like most of their tropes, this one is full of lies, exaggerations, and red herrings.

First of all, it’s just factually incorrect.  The only “salary” on that list paid FOR LIFE is that of retired US presidents.  Members of Congress do not get paid a salary once they leave office.  They do get a pension, based on how many years they have served, but like most pensions it is less than they made in office.  Sometimes a lot less, if they weren’t there very long.

But the whole thing is ridiculous.  The idea that cutting these salaries would have any appreciable affect on the nation’s finances is, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid. Even if you cut all of them in half, you’d save, what, about $50 million? Sounds like a lot, right? And it is a lot, at least to most people.  (It sure is to me!)  But in the context of the federal government it is miniscule — 0.002% of the budget for fiscal year 2012. Try trimming 0.002% off your household budget and see how far it gets you.

You can’t compare the salaries of people at the highest echelons of government, in the mightiest nation on Earth (at least for now), with what the average attendee at a Tea Party rally makes.  Well, unless the Koch brothers happen to show up. The fact is that these are highly educated, highly accomplished people with an earning potential far beyond what they make as elected officials. They certainly wouldn’t be cashiers at Wal-Mart. $400K might be a lot to most people (again, it sure is to me), but compared to what the CEO of even a middling sized corporation makes it’s a pittance. There are lots of things wrong with our system, not least of which the influence of private money on public policy.  Not to mention the revolving door of former elected officials making millions working for lobbying firms. But no one gets rich from their government salary. Most people take a pay cut when they go into public life. If the people posting these status updates think it’s so great, they are free to run for office themselves.

Finally, there is the comparison with the sainted American Soldier. Unpopular truth: Not all soldiers are heroes. In fact, most of them are not. Which is not to say they are not good people.  But they are folks doing a job. That the job they do happens to involve the risk of getting killed is unfortunate, but that fact was not hidden from them when they signed up. I’m not saying it’s not an incredibly tough job, because it is. I wouldn’t want to do it. But that’s why I don’t. And that’s the point. We don’t have a draft any more. Maybe we should, but we don’t. Every single soldier in the military is there because they CHOSE to be there.

Which leads to another unpopular truth: A disturbingly large number of soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan would not be there if they were qualified to do anything else. Yes, there are some who signed up to serve their country, and that’s laudable. But a huge number of them just needed a job and had no other options. And that sucks. In fact it’s a huge problem with our society. But it doesn’t automatically make those soldiers any more noble or heroic. I don’t want to see anyone die. I don’t want to see any more mothers lose their children, or children lose their parents. In fact I think we should stop throwing our soldiers’ lives away and bring them home from Iraq and Afghanistan. But do they get paid too little? I don’t know about that. Frankly, $38K for a 22-year-old kid with a high school education and a rifle sounds a little high to me. If we truly valued these young people’s lives we would put the systems in place to provide them the opportunity to build better lives, and not just treat them as cannon fodder.

These kind of “chain posts” feed into two troubling trends in American society today, both favorite themes of the Tea Party:  The idea that public employees should not be paid at a competitive rate, and the deification of the American soldier.  Scapegoating and idol worship never solved anything.

 

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Jon Stafford

Jon Stafford

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