I may have mentioned on these pages that I ran for Congress in 1996. My opponent had spent 24 years in the Pennsylvania legislature, where the pay is good and the benefits are even better. I’ll pass over his dreadful politics, other than to say that he doesn’t much like government and he can’t stand the federal government. So he promised the voters he would serve 10 years in Congress and then come home. Seventeen years later he’s still in Washington, rising enthusiastically to every roll call to shut the government down. Government, he says, is bad for us. But it has certainly been good for him. Pennsylvania’s legislative salaries rank fourth in the country, exceeding 150% of the state’s median household income. And that’s just the beginning, what with per diems, allowances, lobbyists’ nightly parties, and of course the most comprehensive health care our money can buy. The legislators get it for life, along with their defined-benefit pensions, which the private sector has long considered unaffordable. These he brought to Washington where he found life even better – and unaffected by the recession, which he blames on . . . government.
Our mythology tells us that public service is a sacrifice made on behalf of the republic. But this is by far the best job he could ever get, and he has held it for 41 years. He is not alone (Ted Cruz spent one year in the private sector). We have created a professional class of government haters who live off the government.