- - Thursday, June 20, 2019

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) hasn’t even been in office for a year and she wants a pay increase. No, this isn’t the Onion. That is her actual position.

AOC defended her stance by saying: “There’s so much pressure to turn to lobbying firms and to cash in on members’ service after people leave, because of precisely of this issue. So it may be politically convenient and it may make you look good in the short term, for saying ‘oh, we’re not voting for pay increases,’ but we should be fighting for pay increases for every American worker.

“We should be fighting for a fifteen dollar minimum wage pegged to inflation so that everybody in the United States with a salary, with a wage gets a cost-of-living increase. Members of Congress, retail workers, everybody should get cost-of-living increases to account for the changes in our economy, and then when we don’t do that, it only increases the pressure on members to exploit loopholes like insider trading loopholes to make it on the backend.”

There are three fundamental problems with Miss Ocasio-Cortez’s argument:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, median weekly earnings of the nation’s 116.1 million full-time wage and salary workers were $905 in the first quarter of 2019 (not seasonally adjusted). Over 52 weeks, that equals $47,060.

Compare that to the $174,000 annual salary of a member of Congress like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. Prior to being elected, Miss Ocasio-Cortez was a bartender in New York. According to Salary.com, the average bartender salary in New York City is $25,666 as of May 31, 2019, but the range typically falls between $22,365 and $30,518. Sounds like AOC already got one heck of a pay raise when she took office in January.

Bottom-line: Most Americans already believe that Congress is paid too much.

Maybe it would be different if the public believed that members of Congress earned their salaries. Instead, look at the mess in Washington.

The federal debt now exceeds $22 trillion. That means that a child born today in America inherits more than $67,000 worth of debt.

When I was born in 1967, the national debt was $326 million. That was about 38 percent of the national economy (as measured by Gross Domestic Product). My share of the debt was $1,640.

By 2008, when Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president, the national debt had grown to $10 trillion. That was 68 percent of the national economy.

Eight years later, the national debt nearly doubled to $19.6 trillion. That was an eye-popping 104 percent of our national economy. Yes, you read that right — our debt is more than the overall economy in America.

Today the national debt is more than $22 trillion. That is six and half times larger than federal revenues at $3.3 trillion. To put that into perspective, that would be like living off of $33,000 a year while having credit card debt of $220,000.

Our federal lawmakers cannot seem to do anything permanent about the growing debt problem facing the nation. (This is why I am advocating for the states to pass Balanced Budget Amendment resolutions to force the federal government to balance the budget once and for all). If they cannot balance a budget and if they keep growing the federal debt, why would we give them a raise?

The most ridiculous argument made by AOC, however, is that she and others in Congress need a pay raise or else they will “exploit loopholes.” Let that logic sink in for a minute.

So AOC, you make three to four times what the typical worker makes in America, you can’t even balance the federal budget and your conclusion is that the hard-working taxpayers should give you a pay raise to prevent you from exploiting loopholes? This is precisely why Congress has an approval rating hovering around 20 percent.

In contrast, when I took over my county government years ago, things were a mess and the previous county executive actually made more than the governor. From 2002 to 2010, I returned more than $370,000 of my wages to the taxpayers.

When I took over state government in 2010, we inherited a $3.6 billion structural deficit and many of the bills were left unpaid. We made a series of changes to require public employees to pay a portion of their retirement and health insurance premiums (like nearly everyone else in society). My family paid thousands more than the previous governor for my pension and health insurance premiums, but it was worth it to balance the state budget.

So I can say with some authority that until members of Congress start to balance the federal budget, they don’t deserve a pay increase.

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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