Anyway, I became curious today about the working habits of the members of Congress, the people who are ostensibly my bosses. I was inspired by this graphic, which compares how much the members of Congress work for their $175k/year salaries with the working year of the average American:
Looks like it's nice to be a Representative - the Republicans in the House set themselves a pretty ... um ... leisurely work schedule, shall we say.
However, Daily Kos is not exactly an impartial source of information, so I went back in history to see what the numbers were, from the Democrats in the early 90s through twelve years of Republican rule in the house, back to the Dems, and then today:
(A note about the data: the numbers from the 112th Congress from Daily Kos and in my table exclude a number of days in which Congress was technically in session during this past summer but did absolutely nothing - a legislative gimmick designed to prevent Obama from making any recess appointments. There may have been similar gimmicks in previous Congresses, but I don't remember hearing about such things, so that adjustment, if applicable, isn't made for previous years. If you have any details about such things, please let me know.)
First off, we see that, from a # of days perspective, no Congress works terribly hard - I'm sure members would say they have to spend time in their home districts hobnobbing with constituents, fundraising, etc. But still, only 3 congresses (2 of them under the Democrats) worked for 159 days or more; 3 Congresses worked 110 days or fewer (all 3 of them under the Republicans). Indeed, we see that recent Republican Congresses have been quite lazy, even by the standards of past Republican Congresses - the most recent 4 Republican Congresses worked, on average, 24.78 fewer days per year than the Republican Congresses that preceded them (back to 1993, anyway).
The picture for Republican Congresses' work ethic looks even worse when compared to Democratic Congresses. On average over the period of time I looked at (1993-now), Democratic Congresses worked 9.32% more than Republican Congresses, or 11.85 days more per year. Recently, however, Democratic Congresses have been working more than past Democratic Congresses, while Republican Congresses have been working less than past Republican Congresses, greatly increasing the "work ethic gap" between the two parties. Comparing just the last four sessions from each party, recent Democratic Congresses worked 29.32% more than recent Republican Congresses (a HUGE difference), or a whopping 32.25 days per year (i.e. an entire 6 weeks more than Republican Congresses).
Why do recent Republican Congresses seem to be so lazy? Between the fact that they seem to never want to actually, you know, legislate, and the fact that they often seem to want to dismantle most functions of government, one sometimes wonders why Republicans want to get elected to office at all - it doesn't appear to be their bag of "tea."
Well, here's what one Republican had to say on the matter:
Here's what one Republican congressman had to say: "Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer."Actually, marriages used not to suffer because most Congress(wo)men used to move their entire families to Washington, DC while they served in Congress, so you didn't need to fly home on Thursdays and back on Tuesdays. It's been a big problem for my city, actually - since Congress(wo)men don't feel like they live here anymore, they don't feel a connection to DC; consequently, they don't feel the need to do anything to maintain or improve the city, and they don't care about using the city as a political football. But, that's a rant for another post.
Back to the matter at hand - aside from making Congress(wo)men look lazy, there are real negative consequences to having such a leisurely legislative schedule. From a 2006 article on Congressional laziness:
That was back in 2006. Some things never change.
Personally, I wouldn't be quite so disgusted at Congress for these practices if they also let me work from Tuesday noon until Thursday in the early afternoon. What do you say, Congress - what's good for you is good for the rest of us federal employees, right? Right? Hello, Congress, anyone out there?