So your story has a congressman or two in it. If he’s a man of the people, model him after James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. If he’s a 21st Century Pol, don’t forget one of the biggest reasons Americans want to represent the citizens. It’s not to serve the People, or even gain a bully pulpit for personal beliefs. Now, it’s all about the Perks.
Whether he wants them or not, your character congressperson has them, so you better mention them or s/he won’t sound realistic. Besides, they’re so amazing, readers will not be able to put your book down once you start highlighting all that stuff that comes with the $174,000+ paycheck.
- a $4,700 cost of living increase this year. Aren’t they the ones who said there wasn’t any inflation, which means the cost of living in America didn’t increase? Right.
- Comfortable salaries that are, on a constant-dollar basis, hovering near the postwar high.
- Pension benefits that are two to three times more generous than those offered in the private sector for similarly-salaried executives. Congressional pensions are also inflation-protected, a feature that fewer than 1 in 10 private plans offer.
- Health and life insurance, approximately 3/4 and 1/3 of whose costs, respectively, are subsidized by taxpayers.
- Wheeled perks, including limousines for senior members, prized parking spaces on Capitol Hill, and choice free spots at Washington’s two major airports.
- Travel to far-flung destinations as well as to home states and districts. Despite recent attempts to toughen gift and travel rules, “junkets” are still readily available prerogatives.
- a week paid vacation around Memorial Day and President’s Day
- When a lawmaker becomes sick and ends up at Walter Reed, they get a special entrance and “basically they get a higher standard of care than veterans who’ve put their lives on the line,” says Pete Sapp of the National Taxpayers Union
- A wide range of smaller perks that have defied reform efforts, from cut-rate health clubs to fine furnishings.
- The franking privilege, which gives lawmakers millions in tax dollars to create a favorable public image. Experts across the political spectrum have labeled the frank as an unfair electioneering tool. In past election cycles, Congressional incumbents have spent as much on franking alone as challengers have spent on their entire campaigns.
- An office staff that performs “constituent services” and doles out pork-barrel spending, providing more opportunities for “favors” that can be returned only at election time.
- Exemptions and immunities from tax, pension, and other laws that burden private citizens — all crafted by lawmakers themselves.
British Royalty ain’t got nothin’ on American politicians.