According to the September 6, 2013 edition of Al Jazeera, Malawi President Joyce Banda is selling the presidential jet for $15,000,000.00 to feed the African nation's poor. The money will also be used to grow crops to help reduce malnutrition.
Such an action is, of course, both rare and commendable. In fact, Banda’s sacrifice is so rare and commendable that some Americans are wondering what the government can sell to help the indigent here in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as many people realize.
Some people have suggested that President Barack Obama should sell Air Force One. Is this really such a good idea? Probably not. President Obama may be the most powerful person in the world, and is entitled to a certain amount of prestige. To many people, selling off Air Force One would make both the American president and the nation look undignified.
What else could the government sell? It looks like not much. Thanks to brutal budget cuts and sequestration, today’s American government seems to possess precious little. To save some bucks, advocates have maintained that education (through the use of vouchers and charter schools) and correctional facilities should be privatized. But such experimentation has often proved to be counterproductive. The government could sell some national parks to private companies, but do we really want more pristine wilderness to be gobbled up by the timber and energy industries?
The government, then, may not be able to sell much, and it may not be currently positioned to use more tax dollars to help the impoverished. What then could the government do? Reducing perks for Congressional members might be one answer. The Center for Public Integrity has recently compiled a short list of perks that documents just how cushy Congressional jobs actually are. Here is the list of lavish benefits that Congresspeople receive at taxpayer expense:
- Excellent health care and retirement benefits.
- Generous salaries with annual cost of living increases.
- Lifetime access to members-only parking spaces, elevators, dining rooms, tennis courts, and exercise facilities in Washington D.C.
- Congresspeople have their own dedicated phone lines at airports. They are able to reserve seats on multiple flights, but they only have to pay for the trips that they take. Congress people are also entitled to free parking at Washington D.C. airports.
- The families of Congressional members who die while in office ordinarily receive a full year’s salary as compensation.
- All members who hold office for more than five years receive a hefty lifetime pension.
Will reducing such benefits solve the poverty problem in America? No, of course it won’t. However, the money saved from such reductions could then be allocated to the poor, and it certainly would mark a step in the right direction. Anyway, most Americans — including lower-level government employees — are struggling because of the recession. Members of Congress are citizens, too; thus, they should be sharing the sacrifice.