Do as I say, not as I do

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I have been away on vacation for the past 10 days and will probably do a write up on what it was like. For the most part, I have avoided news and didn't have internet access. I have been trying to catch up and found this article on student loan repayment for House and Senate Aides.

This program has been around for a while, but was recently modified to include taxpayer funded repayment for staffers make up to $168,411. As the article points out:

The move to boost the income cap was made just a month after the House voted 328-93 in March to slap a 90 percent tax on bonuses for executives from companies that took bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

This only amounts to 12.6 million per year, which is only a tiny fraction of the budget, but this just seems to be a poor use of money at this time. I can understand that the House and Senate want to attract the most talented people, but is this really necessary? From what I can tell, these are good jobs which receive thousands of applicants. I find it hard to believe that they are unable to attract decent employees.

I think that taxpayer funded loan repayments are a good thing, but should only be used when it can be shown that the public is being served. I would rather this go towards repaying the loans of doctors that are serving in areas where there is a shortage of physicians or people that work for legal aid. How about using to help teachers that agree to teach where there is a huge demand?


Mr Furious 2:43 PM  

In theory that should already be happening for teachers. Two years of service in inner-city (or other underserved) school system is the deal for tuition.

(Which by the way, was a Kennedy bill, steves...)

steves 3:33 PM  

(Which by the way, was a Kennedy bill, steves...)

Fair enough, but I am still not a fan, nor do I think that politicians (including Reagan) should be deified and venerated to the degree than they are.

That said, Kennedy also championed other beneficial causes, such as immigration reform and deregulating the airline and trucking industries. Unfortunately, his consistent support for every single gun control measure is a deal breaker for me.

Mr Furious 4:08 PM  

Gun control. Good example of a legitimate policy issue where Kennedy worked counter to something you support.

I'm fairly agnostic on gun control, but I can see instances where each side has overreached.

There is a difference between the hagiography of Reagan and Kennedy already apparent to me. Reagan supporters (the vocal, published ones) over-revere the man and the President to the point of gospel and brook no criticism and see no flaws.

Even the ardent defenders of Kennedy will readily admit the man was deeply flawed.

Mr Furious 4:12 PM  

I think if you look at the total package with Kennedy, steves, the good he did for the common man far outweighs his positions on gun control.

Kennedy is directly responsible for legislation that changed countless lives for the better—while gun control hasn't really gotten very far or changed very much because of Kennedy or anyone else's efforts.

B Mac 5:29 PM  

I may be able to speak to this issue a bit.

I'm going to graduate from Notre Dame with somewhere north of $70k or $80k in debt (Others are coming out more than $125k into the shitter). I can't afford to work in the public sector when I graduate. Sure, for top aides making $160k, this change might just be a windfall... but for those making $60,000 (a HUGE sum in House Staffer Land), I couldn't make it work without some loan repayment assistance.

Granted, they probably wouldn't want me. But they want the option, and frankly I'd like the option as well.

steves 5:35 PM  

I don't know. In the conservative sites I still frequent, there was plenty of criticism of Reagan and much of the admiration was tempered. Many of those people liked much of what he did, but saw plenty that they didn't like. Some Kennedy supporters acknowledge the scandals, but say that he "redeemed" himself through his work and using words like "martyr".

It is just hard for me to overlook the gun thing. While I can praise the good he did, I am not agnostic on the gun issue. I am probably a holy rolling fundamentalist.

steves 5:37 PM  

B Mac. Anyone, myself included, would benefit from loan repayment. The question is how often should we use it an where?

B Mac 5:43 PM  

Anyone, myself included, would benefit from loan repayment.

Granted. My point is simply that most House staffers make very, very little money (especially for D.C.). For those choosing between the private sector and public service, this could help make public service an option.

Mr Furious 5:51 PM  

Cost of Living anywhere near DC is fucking crazy!

steves 10:08 PM  

For those choosing between the private sector and public service, this could help make public service an option.

Sure, but is there a shortage of decent people opting for public service? If not, then this just looks like a poor use of public funds...which is something that Congress blasted the bailout companies for doing with various bonuses.

Bob 11:51 PM  

I know a lot of former Hill staffers. They never made shit and never had their school loans repaid. Most were poor, came back to Michigan poor and just had an interesting resume.

There is no way in heel I would work in DC. I like eating more than 2 meals a day. It's that bad.

Bob 7:19 AM  

"The House program pays up to $10,000 a year, with a maximum lifetime benefit of $60,000. Staffers making any salary are now eligible, though their total compensation - including the loan repayment - cannot exceed the 2009 cap of $168,411. From 2008 through May of this year, the cap was $145,159."

$10k a year to repay your loans? This sounds like a lot when someone makes $168k, but most hill staffer make way, way, way less.

The military gets its school paid for and some of them push paper just the same as hill staffera. Not that Hill staffers get shot at, but neither do all military people.

Mr Furious 8:31 AM  

Congress blasted the bailout companies for doing with various bonuses

Apples and oranges, my friend. This is chump change by comparison paid to people in public service only for the time they are serving. Not millionaires that toppled the economy, are still rich and will continue to be.

Mr Furious 8:32 AM  

To say nothing about the moral hazard of rewarding them for the failure and bailout.

steves 8:58 AM  

I acknowledge that it is a relatively small amount, but it just looks bad at this time. I know there are plenty of military paper pushers, but I don't think it is fair to consider a Congressional staffer and them as equivalent in any way.

To say nothing about the moral hazard of rewarding them for the failure and bailout.

We should be awarding Congress, though. They have done such a wonderful job.

Bob 9:05 AM  

"We should be awarding Congress, though. They have done such a wonderful job.

“Congress” does not equal Congressional staffers.

That's the distinction.

Most staffers do it for love of country, love of the process, or support of a cause. There is little glory.

Mr Furious 9:14 AM  

We should be awarding Congress, though. They have done such a wonderful job.

No. I'm ready to bar the doors and burn the place to the ground.

This plan should perhaps be means-tested? I don't know...I have to admit it never entered my thoughts until this thread.

B Mac 5:19 PM  

but is there a shortage of decent people opting for public service?

Yes. Yes. Dear God yes. Sweet mother of all things holy... abso-f*&^ing-lutely yes.

Not only is there a lack of decent (both talent-wise and intention-wise) people on the Hill, but they turn over quickly. Like Bob said, most can't afford the gig for more than a couple of years.

Smitty 9:47 AM  

Sorry to weight-in late. No beer review as I am (still) out sick. If it ain't the swine flu, then it's something horribly bad.

Steves, I can't imagine that the issue of gun control alone for you outweighs every bit of "good" Kennedy ever did for the Little Guy (tm). I have to think too that some of the tings he did for said Little Guy you also somewhat disagree with. I can accept that. I can't wrap my brain around the former; that 46 years of public policy creating health care for old people, sick poor people and kids and civil rights legislation and voting legislation is completely undone by how he chooses to vote on gun control. I never spotted you for a single-issue voter. I am sure it's the former; that of all his good, which I think is really really good, you may think is pretty good here, not so good there.


In my, Bob's and B Mac's line of work, we all know Hill Staffers and Former Hill Staffers. Th only guys making $160k are the upper echelon. A very very distantly remote few. Most are making $20-$30, live with several other Hill Staffers in relative squalor, and, in at least the ones I am personally friends with, skip meals in lieu of drinking.

Many of these staffers work really hard, scrape and scrabble for a 1- or 2-year-long gig with a high-profile Congressman, and then work hard to land a lobbying job, usually at an association of some sort. Pay is better. Or, some come back to places like Michigan, and make a very livable sum in the Michigan legislature.

OK. Back to passing out.

steves 7:44 PM  

Thanks for the input. It always helps to have better first-hand information. I am still not sure it is the best use of public funds or that there are some areas where the public may be better served, but it isn't as bad as it looks.

As for Teddy, I have never been a big fan of his and it is more than just his stance on gun control. I'd even be willing to forgive that, but he has been a sponsor of some anti-gun legislation and has used some of his clout to get stuff passed. I wouldn't put him in the same league as Dianne Feinstein or Chuck Schumer, but he has done more than just vote anti-gun. There are some other issues, so you are correct, it isn't just this.

I would also like to point out that all I said was that I wasn't a fan and did point out several admirable things he did. I never said I hated him or that he was bad in any way.

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