Eight Reasons Why Congress Offers the Worst Job in America

Welcome to a life of mooching, meetings, and trying not to get caught making out with your aides.

"People are always looking over your shoulder as you're talking to them to see who else is coming in," she says. "It's ambitious, and it can be so impersonal."

6. Wasn't I supposed to get 252 days off this year?

Technically, you were. The U.S. House is only scheduled to meet 113 days this year, making this the easiest job since the invention of trophy wives. But most members believe that if they're not in constant demand, "they're slipping into obscurity," says one staffer.

Richard "Dick" Lugar arrived in the Senate from Indiana in 1977. He lost reelection after 36 years in Congress when it was revealed that he'd sold his Indianapolis home three decades earlier.
Richard "Dick" Lugar arrived in the Senate from Indiana in 1977. He lost reelection after 36 years in Congress when it was revealed that he'd sold his Indianapolis home three decades earlier.
Former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas): "It is a 24/7 job."
Former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas): "It is a 24/7 job."

So they're off to the airport every Thursday night, flying home to a new schedule of parades, manufacturing tours, town hall events and meetings. Always more meetings.

Fridays and Saturdays are spent touring the state, playing the resident dignitary at Eagle Scout ceremonies and business openings. It's a grueling schedule, especially if you represent a more populous state. Brown, for example, must answer the needs of 11 million people. "You have a lot of people who want your time," says Schultz.

Nor does the work week finally end when the clock ticks five on Saturday evening. "It is a 24/7 job," says former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). "You're always on call for the emergencies that occur. There are people who are trapped on the top of mountains. There are people who are taken hostage. It could be Sunday. It could be Saturday at 2 a.m."

Someone, somewhere will want you to immediately mobilize the government.

And they'll still be calling you a lazy swine two weeks from now.

5. You will beg treasure from complete strangers.

This is what Washingtonians euphemistically call "strategic outreach."

A leaked PowerPoint presentation from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows the party urging incoming freshmen to spend at least four hours per day soliciting money. Since it's considered gauche — and likely illegal — to mooch contributors from the office, this means slipping away to party headquarters, where your dialing finger develops calluses worthy of an Indonesian call center.

Yet dial you must. This job is a purely capitalist pursuit. He who stockpiles the most loot wins 91 percent of the time. And raising money for the party directly correlates to the prestige of your committee assignments. Beg with insufficient zeal, and you'll find yourself chairing the Subcommittee on Gardening & Lawn Care Products.

Democratic senator Dennis DeConcini spent eighteen years representing Arizona before becoming a lobbyist. Whenever election time neared, his treasurer would "give me a list of people to call, with the names of their wives and where their kids went to college. And that's what I did all weekend — call people."

"You're having to ask people all the time to fund your career," adds Schultz. "What other profession is like that?"

This may explain the devolving reputation of Congress, whose approval rating now flutters at just 13 percent. You have to be deeply committed to the cause — or equally willing to debase yourself — to even consider this job.

Asks Democrat Bob Graham, a former senator and governor from Florida: "How many people would feel comfortable being handed 100 telephone numbers of people you don't know and calling them up and asking them for $1,000?"

4. You probably suck at parenting.

The crushing schedule leaves you primed for charges of familial abandonment. Most legislators get just one day a week with the spouse and kids.

When people ask Tancredo if they should run for office, he answers with a simple question: "I say, 'Well, do you like your family?'"

He relates the tale of a fellow congressman, a father of five whose work left little time for home. One day the man's five-year-old found a videotape of Dad speaking and plugged it into the VCR. The boy's younger brother had seen so little of his father that he tried to hug his image on TV.

Connie Morella had it easier than most — if it's possible to describe a mother of nine's life as "easy." When her sister died of cancer, the Republican congresswoman and her husband — who already had three children — adopted her sister's six kids. But at least she represented nearby Maryland.

She recalls hustling to PTA meetings and back-to-school nights, where her kids were forced to compete with constituents for her attention. It left her with a lingering sense of guilt. "Oh, yes," she says. "Children had to sacrifice to be in political families."

Much worse is the ache in parents who represent distant states. In the old days, legislators could keep their families intact by moving them to D.C. But as disgust for Congress grew, so began an arms race to demonstrate who could be less Washington than the next guy.

Think of it as a weird form of one-upmanship for people with deficit self-awareness. If you're a member of Congress, after all, you're the very embodiment of Washington.

Still, most now boast of keeping their families back home. Others make public spectacles of sleeping in their offices. Look! I'm so not D.C., I don't even have an electric bill here!

"Members will get criticized if they move their families to Washington, because they'll be seen as out of touch with the district," says Martin Frost, a former Democratic congressman from Texas. Occupationally speaking, this can be a lethal accusation.

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4 comments
DRAKEMALLARD.0
DRAKEMALLARD.0 topcommenter


The fat cats in DC need to cut their OWN salaries, benefits and
pensions while they are at it. I know, I won’t be holding my breath for
that one!!. (They vote on their own raises, healthcare, and pension
plans, and we are left with the bill) while millions of Americans saw their incomes decrease, their job opportunities dissipate and their home values drop as the economy dipped, the 535 men and women they elected to represent them in the U.S. Congress were not only shielded from the economic downturn but  gained during it. The average American’s net worth has dropped 8 percent during the past six years, while members of Congress got, on average, 15 percent richer, according to a New York Times analysis of financial disclosure. The median net worth of members of Congress  is about $913,000, compared with about $100,000 for the country at large, the Times’ analysis found 

miss4588
miss4588

So how come the writer left out the most important part where you come in penniless and leave a mullti- multi-millionaire?

edisontvteacher
edisontvteacher

Now lemme get this straight: people are supposed to read this and agree that becoming a politician, a US Representative in particular, is a crappy job. Presenting the work of legislating as downright disgusting is certainly going to have a positive influence on a population already fed up with the process of lawmaking. As two of our most important jobs go down the tubes--teaching and legislating--where does that leave us as a society and nation?

DRAKEMALLARD.0
DRAKEMALLARD.0 topcommenter

@edisontvteacher 

 
There's a reason for this, there's a reason education sucks, and it's the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It's never going to get any better. Don't look for it. Be happy with what you've got... because the owners of this country don’t want that. I'm talking about the real owners now... They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking.

George Carlin

 
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