After lathering up deficits of roughly $350,000 a year over the past 15 years, Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer says it’s time to give the U.S. Senate barbershop a trim, the Weekly Standard reports.
The Senate barbershop -- which opened in 1859 -- provides government subsidized haircuts, shaves and shoe shines to both the political elite and members of the public. However, Gainer says that due to its unsustainable business model, it’s time, as the Weekly Standard put it, to give the barbershop a new style: privatization.
Gainer has attempted to privatize the Senate barbershop over the past few years, but now says the current federal deficit battles are giving him enough leverage to finally get his plan through.
“I’ve accelerated my goal to get there leveraging sequestration” Gainer told the Weekly Standard. “The only real way we’re going to change this thing around without pricing ourselves out of the market is by reducing the number of full time employees.”
In 2012, the Senate barbershop, officially named Senate Hair Care Services, received a $300,000 taxpayer funded bailout to keep its doors open.
The salon -- which provided free services to Senate members until the 1970s -- does charge for its services and serves an estimated 27,000 customers a year. However, former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) attributes the barbershop’s financial troubles to the fact that it employs federal workers, who, Fitzgerald says, are paid substantially higher than private-sector stylists.
“They are using union labor, and so their benefits and wages are higher than those of many jobs,” Fitzgerald told The Daily in response to the 2012 bailout.
According to the Weekly Standard report, the Senate Hair Care Services’ head barber earns nearly an annual $80,000 -- well above the annual income $28,050 of average U.S. barbers. Privatizing the Senate salon would allow Gainer to hire independent contractors at a lower salary.
The House of Representatives has its own barbershop as well, known as the Capitol Barber. However, after being privatized in the mid 90s, the House barbershop is no longer funded by taxpayers. In 2012, the House salon’s barbers and stylists made significantly less than their Senate barber counterparts, earning between $22,000 to $30,000.
On Tuesday, the Senate barbershop’s deficit problems became a late night punch line, as comedian Jay Leno spun a positive perspective on the salon’s monetary losses.
“The United States Senate is now fighting to keep open the Senate barbershop...it loses $350,000 a year,” Leno said on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “You know what that makes it? The most successful government program ever!”