America’s Anti-Government Hypocrites

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hy·poc·ri·sy

noun \hi-ˈpä-krə-sē also hī-\

: the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do : behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel

~Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I live in a place once known as Bleeding Kansas. A century and a half after the Border War, Kansas is bleeding again but this time the wounds are self-inflicted.

Brownback Nation

Things are far from sunny in the Sunflower State.  There’s a massive multimillion dollar crater in the Kansas state budget. To fill the hole he dug, Governor Brown moved to divert $100 million  from highway funds and cut the state’s contribution to the public employees’ retirement system by million – and that’s just for starters.

Unless the Republicans who now control both houses of Congress have a sudden change of heart, what’s happening to Kansas today what might happen to the nation tomorrow.

Governor Brownback, a devout Roman Catholic, has distinguished himself as a crusader against Big Government. To that end he has slashed state income taxes, cut off thousands of welfare recipients, underfunded public schools, refused to expand Medicaid, nixed a state-run health insurance exchange, and curbed abortion rights.

With few exceptions, Sam Brownback, like his fellow right-wingers, is resolutely opposed to profligate government spending. One of the exceptions, is, well, Sam Brownback.

The Gov, you see, was a Senator before he became a governor. Before he was a United States Senator he was a member of the House of Representatives. Before that he served as the Kansas secretary of agriculture. Twice. In between, he worked in Washington in the Office  of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The Best Jobs Program in America

Samuel Dale Brownback has worked for the “big government” he regularly denounces most of  his adult life. Perhaps as a public servant he has made great sacrifices. Perhaps he could have done much better by his family getting a job in the private sector he tirelessly promotes, right? You decide, but first consider the following:

  1.  In 1789 members of Congress received a per diem of $6; no salary, no benefits.
  1.  Brownback’s annual salary was $133,600 when he first served in Congress in 1995-96. As a Senator, his yearly salary rose in increments to $174,00 in 2009.
  1.   During his 15 years in the U.S. Senate, Brownback earned more than $2.4 million in salary alone. As Governor for he earned another $400,000 between 2011 and 2014.  All government money, of course, and there’s more where that came from – a lot more.
  1.  Senators get several million dollars a year for office staff, plus another $250,000 for expenses and travel. The lowest allowance any senator gets is a little under $3,000,000; the highest is $4,722,299. The average is $3.2 million. (Senators’ personal staff allowances vary with the size of the members’ states. Senators typically hire between 26 and 60 staffers. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the maximum salary allowed to Senate personal staffers in 2003 was $150,159; for Senate legislative staffers the maximum salary in 2005 was $153,599.)
  1.  The median household income for taxpayers in 2013 was just under $52,000; in 2015 roughly 41 million Americans don’t have health insurance in 2015.
  1.  In 2006, the average annual pension for retired senators and representatives under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) was $60,972; that figure, of course, does not take into account Social Security and Medicare benefits, which public servants like Sam Brownback want to privatize.
  1.  According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average Social Security recipient is going to net $15,000 a year in benefits while a public workers’ pension will average around $26,000.
  1.  Welfare death benefit – if a member of Congress dies while in office, his/her family is entitled to receive an amount equal to at least one year’s salary, or a minimum of $174,000 – that’s $74,000 more than family members of soldiers killed in action get.

Hypocrisy 101

The right-wingers in Congress who, like Brownback, inveigh against “big government” and “giveaways” are not really against deficit spending and welfare in principle – only when the money being spent is not directly or indirectly benefiting them. Welfare for the poor doesn’t help anti-government extremists; welfare for Congress and the rich does.

Reasonable people on the right and left will eventually join forces, recognize these self-serving hypocrites for what they are, vote them out, and spearhead needed reforms. The only question is how bad things will have to get before that happens.

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