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Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Worth of a Politician

Oftentimes, I hear and read comments other people make that politicians are paid too much, that politicians have too many perks, and so on and so forth. It is not uncommon for these same people to make the same type of comments about government employees, aka civil servants, public servants, public sector employess, etc.

I have a question. In terms of monetary compensation, how much is a politician worth?

It is not uncommon for various citizen groups, civic organizations, community clubs, and other such groups to want a politician (as in elected official or candidate) or a government employee to attend their meetings, to be a guest speaker, to be part of a panel discusion, to be a part of some special event, etc., etc., etc. These public appearances could be day or night, weekdays or weekends.

I have another question in addition to the one previously posed. What work hours should be expected of a politician?

Oh, for sake of reference in considering the worth of a politician, you may wish to look at:
Salary Charts - What Americans Earn
Average Salaries in the United States
Executive PayWatch


Maggie Thurber said...

Roland...while I have my own ideas about the 'worth' of many politicians, I think your question leaves out an important point.

When asked why they ran for public office, many politicians will tell you 'to give back' to whatever community they're hoping to serve.

If that's the case, the money is of no consequence since there should be no financial reward associated with 'giving back.'

While I detest that as a reason (it sounds so contrived and often has nothing to do with reality), it must be considered when determining the 'worth.'

From an hourly rate comparison, though, I can tell you that most politicians make less than minimum wage when you add in all the hours worked and divide by the yearly salary.

Then again, some politicians are worth way more than what they are paid ... but that's usually a matter of personal opinion.

The issue isn't so much the 'worth' of a politician but rather their compensation compared to their constituents. When politicians are 'perceived' to make more than those they serve, it's an issue for the voters.

Often, though, it's not the actual salary as much as it is the perks, whether that be a retirement system that the private sector could never compete with or medical insurance that would be a 'rolls royce' more than a 'cadillac'...

And then there are the 'other' financial benefits. I don't know how they do it, but so many members of Congress become millionaires while serving. Not many non-public workers have such 'opportunities' or 'advantages.'

Just some points to consider....

Tim Higgins said...


Politicians are not the only salaried workers who work long and / or odd hours. As Maggie points out in her comment though, they seem to garner benefit packages not available to those in the private sector.

I would assume however, that politicians running for office know and understand the hours required to obtain and retain such a position. Once in the job, like many outside of politics they simply work the hours required by their responsibilities.

From personal experience, I also understand that often "hours on duty" are not always "hours of work", so the equation is not as simple as hourly rate.

While I have taken this subject on recently and am therefore perhaps guilty of such comments, I posed them as questions as well. What my research taught me is simply that the guilt that I was always told that I was supposed to feel for the underpaid government worker is no longer a part of the personal burden that I carry.