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Monday, October 15, 2007 

Money on the Mind

Bob Collins (of Polinaut) apparently believes that everybody is in Washington to make money, and that policy differences are secondary to that singular goal. Of course, he ignores the fact that many members of Congress could make far more in the private sector than they do in public life.

Speaking of money and public life, McMemo (the Star Tribune's new blog) has a post this morning titled Left's money advantage evident in Minnesota. Aside from the GOP's national money woes due its minority status and the loss of the K Street Project, it's important to note that Republican contributors may be more cautious spending their money in Minnesota than in previous cycles, given the state's dramatic tilt to the left over the past four years. Where party leaders and big-dollar donors may have seen an emerging opportunity in the past, it's now hard to avoid seeing signs that the state is ending its flirtation with the Republican Party. If donors do stay away, Minnesota Republicans may have to fight each other for dollars; Sen. Coleman and Rep. Bachmann may find themselves hard-pressed to keep up with challengers, and the non-incumbents in the 1st and 3rd CDs may be unable to raise enough money to run good campaigns.

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The notion that "many members of Congress could make more in private life" is an oft-quoted assertion that doesn't always hold up to the barest amount of scrutiny.

It usually involves something like (a) politician A is a lawyer (b) lawyers make more money than congressmen (c) politician A could make more money as a private citizen.

And if you compare the two salaries, of course that's the conclusion. However it ignores campaign contributions,for one thing (which retirees can take with them) and, more important, it ignores the scads of money retiring politicians make in private practice, in jobs (including serving on boards of directors) in order to tap the access that serving in Congress allows.

You accuse me of saying something (everybody is in congress to make money) that I never said. What I said was that those who cash in are not from one particular political stripe.

Congressional service isn't a sacrifice in the long term, any more than college is.

What you said was "one wonders why there's such a polarization between Democrats and Republicans, since once they get to Washington, it's simply one giant money suck for so many of different stripes."

The clear implication that I see is that the primary goal of those elected to Congress is money for themselves, and that as such, the polarization seen between the parties is surprising. Certainly, Democrats as well as Republicans have the opportunity to gain financially, and I'm sure there are lots of facts that could be used for both sides of the "make more money" argument. The idea, however, that the primary goal of being elected is money is patently absurd.

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