Thursday, September 17, 2009

No Oversight on the Micromanaging Oversighters.

While Wikipedia may not be the ultimate of factual information, the following is from Wikepedia:

"The Comptroller General has the responsibility to audit the financial statements that the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget present to the Congress and the President. For every fiscal year since 1996, when consolidated financial statements began, the Comptroller General has refused to endorse the accuracy of the consolidated figures for the federal budget, citing '(1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.'"

If this were a private enterprise, Congressional Democrats would have the executives in jail. Yet, in spite of either their ignorance or hypocrisy, Congress continues to delve into and attempt to control every facet of private enterprise (not to mention humans). Some might think its activity is simply casting a net for campaign contributions to reelect them.  Some might think they should improve their own knitting.

Congress is well-paid. Too well-paid, some might argue. Let's compare Congresspeople to members of boards of directors of private-enterprise companies. (A somewhat analogic comparison also would be to compare a president and his administration to business executives.)

The currently projected budget of the United States of America (although perhaps President Obama's budget has recently changed, but no matter to this exercise) reflects revenue of $2,700,000,000,000. If that number is divided by the number of Congresspeople, 535, the revenue per Member is $5,046,728,971. There are approximately 1,800,000 employees of the federal government (as of 2007 and excluding intelligence agencies such as CIA) which yields about 3,365 federal employees per each Member of Congress.

Now let's compare that "responsibility" (if you can use that word with Congress) to that of a member of a board of directors of the couple of the largest American corporations. Revenues of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.(WMT) are $400 billion to $450 billion a year. With ten to fifteen members of its board of directors, that equates to around $26 to $45 billion in revenues for which each board member is responsible. This, compared to about $5 billion per member of Congress.

XOM with about 80,000 employees and WMT, with more employees than the U. S. Government, has about 2.1 million, so the number of employees per board member is 5,333 and 210,000 versus 3,365 per Congressional Member.

Members of Congress are currently paid $174,00 plus an extraordinary amount of "perks" such as fat retirement plans, gold-plated healthcare, free parking, and, for many, cars and drivers and free flights on corporate-sized and military jets. Directors of XOM and WMT get between $220,000 and about $325,000 in cash and stock, restricted in sale. The pay is arguably roughly the same.

Interestingly, the boards of XOM and WMT have only 4 – 5 committees and a staff of perhaps a few people, plus some ad-hoc consultants. The individual members have no staff. Board members are up for election each year.

Now compare that to Congress, with 45 committees:

House of Representatives
Personnel: Each Member is alloted $748,312 to hire up to 18 staff and four additional temporary, part-time, of shared staff. Staff can not be paid more than $151,974 per year.
Official office expenses: Each Member begins with a base allowance of $187,236 to spend on office expenses. Office expenses may include travel costs, office equipment, district office rental, stationary and office supplies, telecommunications, printing, postage, computer services, and other office-related expenses. The price for travel cost is judged by a formula (explained in this document). The minimum mileage amount for a Member is $6,200.
Administrative and clerical: This allowance is allocated based on the size of the Senator's state. The amount varies from $1,685,301 for a state with a population less than 5 million to $2,833,718 for a state with a population topping 28 million.
Legislative assistance: Each Senator is alloted $450,477 to hire three Legislative Assistants to be paid no more than $150,159.

As for staff, according to C-Span (   
(Prior to the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 staff rarely topped one or two advisers.)
Personal Staff--who work for individual Members of Congress--11,692

Committee Staff--who work for either the majority or minority on congressional committees--2,492
Leadership Staff--who work for the Speaker, Majority Leader, Minority Leader, Majority Whip or Minority Whip--274
Institutional Staff-- majority or minority party floor staff, and non-partisan staff: police, legislative clerks, building, janitorial--5034
Support Agency non-partisan Staff—Congressional Research Service [747], Congressional Budget Office [232], and General Accounting Office [3,500].

FYI, this indicates that partisan staff -- those who apparently work for a Member's reelection -- number 19,592 and the non-partisan staff equals only 4,479. 

Or roughly 24,000 staff versus virtually none for the private-company boards of directors.
Members of the U. S. House of Representatives are elected every two years, Senators, four.

Congress Members do work from Tuesday to Thursdays with liberal time off (including at least a month in August), while boards of directors work less and have probably a maximum of twelve meetings a year.

Well that's about it.  Fair and balanced, to coin (or copy) a phrase.

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