I was going to write a political piece here ( no, not about the election ) regarding Congress and its being exempt from the most controversial and/or most widely influential laws it passes, thus insulating itself from the effects of those laws. “It seems to me,” I was going to write, “having no skin in the pot significantly lowers the motivation level to make the laws work and, therefore, the probability that they will work well, or at all.” I had enough words for at least one post written, and was getting warmed up about an idea I had to address this. It was not a rant, but I was ramped up.
Like any good writer, of course, I decided to do some research. The topics I chose are Social Security and the Affordable Care Act. I was completely wrong.
Congress was exempt from Social Security until about 35 years ago, when Congress changed the law. Now, like most everyone else, Congress People pay into it and it is one of several options which they can choose to support them in retirement. ( I believe they pay less into it than you and I do and they seem to have a defined total benefit plan with Social Security being but one portion. That’s another story and well beyond the simple notion I believed and wrote about. )
While the final version of the Affordable Care Act omitted the exception, Congress debated at least one version of the bill which excepted Congress People from its provisions. In fact, according to what I read ( and this was brief, nearly frantic researching ), even the President and his ( her? ) staff are subject to its provisions. ( They, like many of us, get their health insurance from their employer and nothing changes for them. )
Some concluding thoughts, then:
If Congress is using Social Security funds for other purposes, it’s not strictly because its provisions don’t apply to members of Congress; there are other reasons for the scandal that is Congress’s failure to address certain budgeting issues up-front by stealing from the Social Security fund.
If the Affordable Care Act is clumsy, costly, and ineffective ( which I am not herein claiming ), or needs serious rework ( which I am not able to comment on ), or needs tweaking here and there ( which I would assume to be the case ), but Congress is too grid-locked to do anything useful about it, it’s not because its members aren’t affected; something else is at work.
Still, prior to 35 years ago Congress was exempt from Social Security and it did debate one or more versions of the Affordable Care Act which exempted Congress from its provisions … perhaps it’s time to take away from Congress the right to decide whether or not the provisions of its laws pertain to members of Congress. They, after all, are citizens, too.
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