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Scraping by on $174K a year

With public disapproval ratings over the job performance by members of Congress hovering at about 85 percent as of last month, one would think it would be difficult to lower the bar much further.

But soon-to-retire Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.,may have accomplished the seemingly impossible late last week, when he said in an interview that the current Congressional salary of $174,000 a year is too low, and forces members to rent “tiny” apartments or even sleep in their offices.

“A lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington,” Moran was quoted as saying. The 23-year veteran of Congress said he plans to propose an amendment to a new Congressional funding bill that would give his colleagues a per diem allowance to cover housing costs in the Washington, D.C., area, allowing them to live a bit more in the style to which they are accustomed — at taxpayer expense.

While U.S. senators and representatives may not pull down the 7- to 8-figure annual salaries collected by certain captains of industry, who don’t deserve that much either, it’s hard to believe that members of Congress are being forced to roll out sleeping bags in their SUVs while earning several times the nation’s mean annual pay — especially when they had 239 days off last year and are scheduled to take an extra 13 days off this year.

If Moran’s proposal is shot down, as it is mercifully expected to be, maybe members of Congress could consider earning their rent money by spending a few of their hundreds of annual days off racking up the $20,000 a year in speaking fees from lobbyists they are allowed to collect without fear of ethics violations, or working at actual non-government jobs.

Late last year, the opinion firm Public Policy Polling ( sought input from registered voters on how members of the least productive Congress in modern history rated, when compared with a number of unpopular people, places and things. Only Vladimir Putin, Charles Manson, Honey Boo Boo and Miley Cyrus were liked less than Congress, according to the poll, while voters rated hemorrhoids 22 percent more favorable, visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles 34 percent more favorable, and witches 14 percent more favorable than our elected officials on Capitol Hill. Even toenail fungus, cockroaches and dog poop got approval ratings 2 to 7 percent higher than Congress, according to the poll.

While housing is undoubtedly more expensive in metropolitan Washington than it is in much of the nation, I don’t think many of us living off the private teat in the hinterlands would have any difficulty at all moving to the nation’s capital and scraping by on the Congressional base pay of $14,500 a month.

Finally, there’s only one remaining issue that troubles me about the poll:

Is Miley Cyrus really all that bad?

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