Eight Reasons Why Congress Offers the Worst Job in America

Categories: Congress, Longform

6. Wasn't I supposed to get 252 days off this year?

Technically, you were. The U.S. House is only scheduled to meet 113 days this year, making this the easiest job since the invention of trophy wives. But most members believe that if they're not in constant demand, "they're slipping into obscurity," says one staffer.

So they're off to the airport every Thursday night, flying home to a new schedule of parades, manufacturing tours, town hall events and meetings. Always more meetings.

Fridays and Saturdays are spent touring the state, playing the resident dignitary at Eagle Scout ceremonies and business openings. It's a grueling schedule, especially if you represent a more populous state. Brown, for example, must answer the needs of 11 million people. "You have a lot of people who want your time," says Schultz.

Kay_Bailey_Hutchison-250px.jpg
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Nor does the work week finally end when the clock ticks five on Saturday evening. "It is a 24/7 job," says former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). "You're always on call for the emergencies that occur. There are people who are trapped on the top of mountains. There are people who are taken hostage. It could be Sunday. It could be Saturday at 2 a.m."

Someone, somewhere will want you to immediately mobilize the government.

And they'll still be calling you a lazy swine two weeks from now.


5. You will beg treasure from complete strangers.

This is what Washingtonians euphemistically call "strategic outreach."

A leaked PowerPoint presentation from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows the party urging incoming freshmen to spend at least four hours per day soliciting money. Since it's considered gauche -- and likely illegal -- to mooch contributors from the office, this means slipping away to party headquarters, where your dialing finger develops calluses worthy of an Indonesian call center.

Yet dial you must. This job is a purely capitalist pursuit. He who stockpiles the most loot wins 91 percent of the time. And raising money for the party directly correlates to the prestige of your committee assignments. Beg with insufficient zeal, and you'll find yourself chairing the Subcommittee on Gardening & Lawn Care Products.

Democratic senator Dennis DeConcini spent eighteen years representing Arizona before becoming a lobbyist. Whenever election time neared, his treasurer would "give me a list of people to call, with the names of their wives and where their kids went to college. And that's what I did all weekend -- call people."

"You're having to ask people all the time to fund your career," adds Schultz. "What other profession is like that?"

This may explain the devolving reputation of Congress, whose approval rating now flutters at just 13 percent. You have to be deeply committed to the cause -- or equally willing to debase yourself -- to even consider this job.

Asks Democrat Bob Graham, a former senator and governor from Florida: "How many people would feel comfortable being handed 100 telephone numbers of people you don't know and calling them up and asking them for $1,000?"



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