U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., feels his constituents’ pain. Especially those who are losing income because of a sour economy and because of Wisconsin’s looming state budget cuts.
A constituent at a town hall meeting in Amery, Wis., recently asked Duffy if he would accept a pay cut to help balance the federal budget. The constitutent noted that he had been forced to take a second job as a bus driver to pay his bills and that his schoolteacher wife stood to have her salary slashed in budget cutting.
Duffy said he would take a pay cut, but only as part of a plan where all public employees’ salaries would be cut. But then he seemed to grouse that he wasn’t being paid what he is worth as it is.
I walked into this job six weeks ago that I worked incredibly hard for. And I can guarantee you or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With six kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I’m living high off the hog, I’ve got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I’m not living high off the hog.
No. He is only earning $174,000–not including benefits. That is merely three times the median income in Wisconsin as a whole. It is nearly six times greater than salaries earned by duffy’s own Northern Wisconsin constituents. The median individual annual pay for residents of Ashland, Wis., where Duffy was a prosecutor before he was elected to Congress, is a whopping $30,853.
(Incidentally, is Duffy suggesting that taking a second job is making his constituent’s life easier? Wow….)
On the tape, which the Polk County, Wis., GOP has removed from its YouTube channel and now wants removed from the entire Internet (!)–the constituent surmises that slashing the salaries of members of Congress would take care of the budget deficit. My mom has been known to say much the same thing.
Of course, that is wrong. Congressional salaries are a tiny portion of the federal budget.
And Duffy has something of a point. Members of Congress at this point are expected to maintain two households–one in Washington, one in their district–and they probably are underpaid.
Nonetheless, this is pretty inept for a new congressman in that particular state–the man who replaced the retired local legend Rep. David Obey. Public employees in Wisconsin have been under assault lately, with the GOP-dominated state legislature reducing pay and benefits and stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Talking Points Memo has obtained the portion of the video that contains Duffy’s blunder. It is online here.