On Rick Perry’s Proposal to Cut the Pay of Members of Congress

The pay of members of the House of Representatives, in constant 1913 dollars.

This comes from Matt Glassman.  More is here.

The broader problem with Perry’s proposal, as Kevin Collins noted, is that “de-professionalizing” the legislature by cutting pay and the like would actually make Congress less responsive to voters.  He cites this paper (pdf) by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips.  In it, they find that the congruence between state policy and voters’ opinions is stronger in states with professionalized legislatures—where professionalism is captured by legislators’ salaries, the number of days the legislature is in session, and the number of staff assigned to legislators.

In short, if you want public policy to reflect popular will, don’t stock the legislature with amateurs.

4 Responses to On Rick Perry’s Proposal to Cut the Pay of Members of Congress

  1. Gary November 16, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    I think it’s in the Constitution (or is it one of the Commandments? I forget…) that no idea that comes out of Rick Perry’s mouth (I won’t say it comes out of his brain) can make sense, and there’s only a random chance that its premises are in fact true.

  2. Sarah November 16, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    If Congress goes down to half-time, can I go down to half-time too?

  3. Adano November 16, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I don’t know that the Lax and Phillips paper is applicable. Surely you could hit a point where too much professionalism causes responsiveness to decline. To be ridiculous, surely responsiveness would drop if we paid members $100,000,000, since they could serve on term and retire wealthy.

    No state is as professionalized as Congress, although California comes close, so it may be inappropriate to extrapolate out-of-sample to Congress from their findings.

    Of course, I still disagree with Perry. I’m just not sure that Lax and Phillips are relevant to explaining why.

  4. Anonymous Coward November 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Well, there’s also Cherie Maestas’s work that shows that (IIRC) professionalized state legislatures have more people who try to find out what their districts want.