## Sunday, October 10, 2010

### More Math And Politics

Should we pay congressmen a bonus if they balance the federal budget? One candidate said so--he was joking--but his opponent has seized on the issue. At least one reporter, though, can do some basic math:

Speaking in front of a white board at George Mason University, Fimian said that congressional salaries should be cut to \$50,000 until members balance the budget. He added that once that happens, he would want a \$250,000 bonus.

In his ad, Connolly slams Fimian for supposedly supporting bonuses for members of Congress -- an allegation that seems absurd given that the context of Fimian's statement was a larger rant against government spending.

But if Fimian wants to play Connolly's little game, he could offer a good comeback.

If you take Fimian's "\$250,000 bonus" suggestion literally, the government would have to dole out \$109 million in bonuses to the 435 voting members of the House once they balance the budget.

But until that's accomplished, cutting members' \$174,000 base salaries to \$50,000 would save \$54 million each year. Given that a Republican takeover of the House is likely and even greater legislative gridlock appears imminent, it seems extremely unlikely that a balanced budget will be approved within two years -- the amount of time necessary to make up that \$109 million in bonus payouts.

Best case scenario, Congress does pass a balanced budget by 2012, and we save \$54 million for each of two years, then pay it back in bonuses. Zero net impact.

Worst case scenario, the government saves \$54 million annually as it continues spending beyond its means for years on end.

Performance pay for congressmen?