You know, I'm sure that most Americans look at our legislators, with their terrible haircuts and ill-fitting suits, and say to each other, "What a glam lifestyle! Wouldn't you LOVE to be a congressman?" And then someone else says, "OMG I dream of having Bob Filner's (D-Calif.) life." And the first person replies, "Not me! I want to be like Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), for sure!" And then their pal from homeroom overhears and pipes up, "I got a fundraising letter from Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and it was like, RILLY RILLY personal and stuff? Do you think she might be into me? Oh, I could just die, you guys!"
These are the kinds of giddy and enthusiastic thoughts that go through the heads of young people everywhere who aspire to one day serve on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, like some kind of celebrity or something. Sadly, the news coming out of Capitol Hill today might dash many a hope and crush many a dream, because according to this piece by Jonathan Allen, being a part of the legislature has, like, totally lost "its thrill." (Its thrill!)
As they head for the exits this year, many leaving Congress say the prestigious job of being a congressman sucks now, and that's why lawmakers young and old are trading in their member pins for a new life in the private sector.
Yes, at some point in the past, being a legislator entitled to an easy-to-retain seat with unlimited access to lobbyist cash and connections that make it easy to seamlessly transition from public service to a long career of highly-renumerated influence-peddling and/or corporate board-sitting has gone from being a delicious slam-dunk scam to just being, you know ...lame and junk. Many reasons are cited for the decline of the lush life: pay has been frozen, perks including gifts and free travel and sumptuous meals have been spiked by government watchdogs, and everyone just basically expects you to behave "ethically," for some reason. But worst of all, "the stature of the office has diminished and the burdens have grown."
In other words, there's this annoying expectation that when you're sent to Washington, you'll actually do work, or something. (Which is weird, because another reason that Allen cites for the overall "this sucks-itude" is that "Fundraising is a much bigger hassle these days, as it costs more and more to run an effective race against the new soft money pouring into congressional contests." Which sort of suggests that this might be alleviated if this legislators would actually work on some legislation to ameliorate this problem. But, ugh, the effort!)
The newsiness of this comes from the recent mini-exodus of members like Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who shows up in this piece herself, complaining that "the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned." It's a strange complaint, given the fact that Snowe got to do what she wanted to do all the time, which was to use her enormous influence as a swing voter to water down legislation without regard for logic or policy outcome, because of "centrism."
But times have just changed for today's legislators, who have to wake up every morning to the news that their approval ratings hover one or two points ahead of people who desecrate graves for fun. (This phenomenon could be related to the fact that the country underwent a staggering economic crisis that Congress has largely failed to address in any meaningful way, other than to give a group of galactic cock-ups several billion dollars, but that's just my best guess.)
At any rate, my favorite bit from this wonderful piece where Allen got so many people to essentially satirize themselves for free is this line from the soon-to-retire Dan Boren (D-Okla.) who, while "fondly remembering his days in the state Legislature" during "a telephone interview as he ate yet another in a long string of lunches at the T.G.I. Friday's in Terminal C of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport" lamented: "I'm used to being a player."
Dan Boren is used to being a player. Just gonna leave it there.
[CORRECTION: This post briefly misidentfied California's Reprsentative as Dan Dreier, instead of David Dreier. The text has been amended with the correct name. We regret the error.]
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Being in Congress loses its thrill for some lawmakers [Politico]
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