The sheer brass this takes:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she opposes a cut in congressional pay because it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers' jobs.
"I don't think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "I think it's necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded."
Look, our side goes a little nuts with this stuff sometimes. You're not going to be able to finance a nanosecond of the federal government's operations with the money you save through legislative pay cuts. But then, that's not really the point.
The point is that "the dignity of the job" is ostensibly in serving the American people -- which means that when we all wake up from decades worth of orgiastic spending, the people wearing the little lapel pins ought to be the first to volunteer themselves for a haircut, if only to prove that the District of Columbia isn't a consequence-free zone.
Pelosi was quick to point out that her family's wealth means it wouldn't be a big deal for her to take the hit, but that many other lawmakers are the breadwinners in their family. Fine, but misleading. We're never going to cut salaries to the point where U.S. senators are living off of Ramen noodles and Easy Mac. And everyone knows that the financial calculation that goes into serving in Congress usually has more to do with cashing in once you leave than growing rich on Capitol Hill.
On a related note, I attended a meeting earlier this week with a reporter formerly stationed in Asia. She noted how Singapore pays its elected officials relatively lavish salaries in order to, amongst other things, insulate them from the temptation of corruption (here's a brief rundown from Stephen Dubner at the Freakonomics blog).
I'll admit that my first reaction was skepticism. Corruption is always going to provide the prospect of more money. I'm not sure if there's any salary sufficient to extinguish the instinct towards avarice. Of course, the advocates for higher pay also argue that it will attract a higher caliber of talent to these positions. What do you think?