Here’s a novel idea on how to handle the country’s debt problem:
If a special congressional committee doesn’t come up with a debt-reduction plan by Nov. 23, Congress should take a 10 percent pay cut, says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“If we can’t hit our targets, we need to come up with a new way to find savings,” Graham told Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren Thursday night. “How about cutting congressional pay 10 percent? How about making all of us suffer, not just the Medicare people and the Department of Defense? How about an across-the-board cut, where everybody has to feel some pain if we can’t get our act together?”
Graham was referring to the bipartisan 12-member “supercommittee” tasked with drafting a deal to trim the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. If the panel fails to reach an agreement by Thanksgiving, an across-the-board $1.2 trillion cut to defense and non-defense spending will be enacted in early 2013 – an outcome that defense hawks such as Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have pledged to work to undo.
Graham has also advocated a 5 percent across-the-board cut to federal spending in addition to a 10 percent cut for members of Congress.
“If the supercommittee fails to come up with an acceptable deficit reduction, I think it makes more sense to institute a 5 percent across-the-board cut in government spending, combined with a 10 percent cut in pay for members of Congress,” he wrote last month in a Politico op-ed. “Then, spending reductions would be shared by all Americans and would not lead to the destruction of the military.”
Graham’s proposal could well be a popular one at a time when Congress’s approval rating has hit the single digits for the first time ever.
But crunch the numbers and it turns out that a 10 percent pay cut would make barely a dent in the country’s $14.9 trillion debt.
According to figures maintained by the House Press Gallery, most senators and House members earn an annual salary of $174,000 a year. The speaker of the House earns $223,500 a year. The House and Senate majority and minority leaders earn $193,400 a year, as does the Senate president pro tempore -- the longest-serving member of the majority party, currently Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).
That means that the total annual salary for all 100 senators and 441 House members (435 representatives plus six non-voting delegates) comes to about $96 million.
A 10 percent cut would amount to a savings of about $9.6 million a year, or $96 million over the next decade.
That’s eight-thousandths of a percent of the minimum amount the debt supercommittee must find in deficit savings before its Thanksgiving deadline.
Even if you wiped out the salary of every single member of Congress for the next 10 years, you’d still be only eight-hundredths of a percent of the way to the supercommittee’s $1.2 trillion goal.