Homeless on $174,000

U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D – Maryland) stated earlier this week that he is in favor of giving members of Congress a pay raise

because it’s hard to make ends meet on a $174,000 annual Congressional salary. Hoyer didn’t call it a pay raise, but rather a cost of living increase because members of Congress have been stuck in their dead end six figure jobs at $174K since 2010. Representative Alcee Hastings (D- Florida), who also supports a pay increase for himself, claimed that 50 House members are sleeping in their Capitol Hill offices because they can’t afford anything else.

Hoyer apparently didn’t get the memo that household income for the rest of America has flat lined during the past 20 years. Median U.S. household income in 2014 (at $51,939) was lower than median household income in 2005 ($55,576 in today’s dollars) and is stuck at about the same as it was in 1995.

During the same 20 year period, members of Congress have seen their salary increase from $136,700 to $174,000 in absolute dollars. That puts Hoyer, who is single, in the 98th percentile by income on just his salary. (Hoyer would need a raise of $20,000 to get into the top 1% by Congressional salary alone.)

According to Roll Call, Hoyer claimed that his purpose in giving himself more money is to prevent only the rich from serving in Congress because “I don’t think that’s what the founding fathers had in mind”.

Speaking of what the founding fathers had in mind, in 1789, Congressional salaries were $6 per day. For the 137 legislative days that members of Congress work each year, on average, that would be $822 for the year. So if Hoyer wants to go back to the founding father’s intent, all he needs to do is give back $173,178 each year.

So what would it take for Steny Hoyer, who has been collecting a government check for his last 34 years in Congress, to qualify to file for bankruptcy?

The Chapter 7 means test is based upon a combination of family income and household size. The bankruptcy means test rewards debtors with children, so a single person in Wyoming with no children, for example, must make less than $50,528 per year (as measured over the prior 6 months, so the limit is $25,264 gross income from all sources during the six months prior to filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy). By contrast, if you are married and have two children, you are eligible for chapter 7 so long as you make money at a rate of less than $81,782 per year ($40,891 gross during the prior 6 months).

The numbers are slightly different in Maryland, Hoyer’s home state. So Hoyer would need to have 12 minor children living at home with him to qualify to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy.

For moral bankruptcy, no figures are available.


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