By Marilyn Assenheim
It seems that every cloud does have a silver lining. The Politico reports that dozens of defections, in the Senate and in the House, staffers and aides are retiring, have either handed in their notices or are preparing to do so before full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. According to everyone willing or unwilling to go on the record, Affordable Care isn’t affordable: “It’s too expensive.”
The Politico, although they credit Republicans with opposing the coming healthcare catastrophe from the outset, makes hay of the fact that Democrats and Republicans, both, “are taking the issue seriously”: “Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.” But, provided they have put in enough time, anyone, be they staffers or elected officials, would keep their current, federally funded “Cadillac Healthcare Plan” if they blow Capitol Hill before The Affordable Health Act kicks in. The situation has created quite a stir and has kick-started Democrat and Republican legislators into high gear on their own behalf. Action they have been unwilling to take for the rest of the country.
The Politico was, unwittingly, comical when it claimed that a mass Exodus of Capitol Hill personnel would create a “brain drain,” just as Congress was facing “a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.” As if these matters had just popped out from behind a rock to surprise them. What isn’t so funny is that the government seems to be planning an exemption for these privileged few.
Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat who had a leadership role in Congress when the Affordable Care Act was passed, champions a resolution tailored for the political class. He is convinced that it will happen: “If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees’…They are federal employees.” Not fair to these employees because they are federal employees? Intervene on Congress’s behalf? How is this draconian Obamination fair to the rest of us?
2013 salary figures for Congressional aides range between $35,000 and $170,000. Government statistics list Congressmen and Senators’ base salaries, exclusive of benefits or any extras, beginning at $174,000 per year. By contrast, median, U.S. household income (all members of a household combined), according to CNN Money, was $50,100 in 2012. That figure has plummeted and is expected to fall even lower for 2013. Yet Americans are expected to swallow The Lyin’ King’s bitter healthcare pill while Congress frantically works, not for us, but for themselves? Clearly, the day of the citizen-statesman is long gone. There is no sane rationale for this unapologetic display of Congressional self-aggrandizement
Politico stated that “dozens” of lawmakers refused to go on the record for fear of repercussions. But, whether on the record or off, lawmakers agreed that “departures could run the gamut from low-level staff to legislative aides, to senior aides and lawmakers. Capitol Hill is an attractive workplace for politically ambitious college graduates, but a core of Capitol Hill aides stick around for decades…earning prized retirement packages.”
Whether they stick around for decades or not, their proposed defections can only benefit the rest of the nation. If this is what it takes to send them packing it would be a bargain at twice the price.