A brief history of politicians complaining about their six-figure salaries

September 18, 2013

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) on Wednesday became the latest politician to fall victim to the desire to complain about a six-figure salary.

NRO's Jonathan Strong reported that Gingrey said in a closed-door meeting that staff may not make a lot of money on Capitol Hill, “but in a few years they can just go to K Street and make $500,000 a year. Meanwhile I’m stuck here making $172,000.”

Oops.

As The Post's Reid Wilson noted on Twitter, the vast majority of Gingrey's potential constituents as a senator (the office he's seeking in 2014) would love to have such problems.

But Gingrey is hardly the first politician to stumble into this trap.

A sampling:

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) in 2011: "I guarantee most of you, I have more debt than all of you. With six kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I'm living high off the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now."

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) in 2011: "By the way, did I mention: They're shooting at us. There is law-enforcement security in this room right now, and why is that? ... If you think this job pays too much, with those kinds of risks and cutting me off from my family business, I'll just tell you: This job don't mean that much to me. I had a good life in Panama City."

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif) in 2011: "I have to tell you that I live paycheck-to-paycheck, like most Americans. I’m still paying off my student loans. I have a 2-year-old son who I have to support, and I have to maintain residences on both coasts. It’s very difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I can give up my paycheck,’ because the reality is, I have financial obligations that I have to meet on a month-to-month basis that doesn’t make it possible for me.”

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), who makes most of his money from his Subway restaurants, in 2011: "The amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million (income). So by the time I feed my family I have, maybe, $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment."

(Update: A Fleming spokesman notes that Fleming wasn't really complaining about his income or salary, so much as pointing out how much federal taxes cut into the amount of money business owners have to reinvest. His income amount was broached by the TV host interviewing him.)

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Juliet Eilperin | September 18, 2013