Cutting staffers’ loan help will chase away top talent

I worked on Capitol Hill for three years and was enrolled in college for part of the time that I was serving on a congressional staff. I was fortunate enough to not need to this program; as the daughter of two primary public school teachers putting their four children through college, my parents had made our education a priority. At that time and in the past, this program was the only added benefit mentioned to me and to many others who were asked to work for their country. When I first started working on the Hill I made $15,000 per year. That amount went up to the mid $20,000 range, and in my last year it skyrocketed to an annual salary of $31,000 per year. Hill staffers have many reasons to work on Capitol Hill, but the majority does not go into politics to get rich. 

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For anyone who is confused here, those large congressional salaries you hear about on TV, when people are talking about Congress asking for a raise, do not go to the person answering your phone call and working from 9 a.m. to whenever the next constituent emergency is. I’m talking about the average Joe or Jane who is young and idealistic enough to still believe in America and that they can make a difference. They work long hours with little pay and try to make it day in and day out by reading their inspirational American quote calendar.

I don’t think this issue has to be a matter of partisan politics, as it never has been in the past, but it has become partisan in more ways than one now that this program will become defunded.

Republican Congresses in the past have never touched this program since its enactment in 1990. The late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) championed this program, and the Congress has also benefited from it over the years. Now that they are deciding to end the loan repayment program, it’s the quality of our congressional offices that will suffer. 

Many people in Washington and intelligent Americans outside the Beltway understand that the lobbying culture draws many of the best minds from the Hill into their pockets. The number of Hill staffers using this benefit, Republicans and Democrats alike, is staggering, and yet, they will not be the only group of American affected by this decision. By destroying one of the few saving graces of working on the Hill, Washington, and the rest of the country, should be prepared for a huge shift in the dynamics of politics. I’m surprised we don’t hear more staffers or their bosses speaking up about this issue.

Arlington, Va.

Northern neighbor: Let the states have their say

From Ernie Slump

Conservatives in western Canada are pulling for the U.S.; we always have. Without our American friends, Canada would still be a backward nation.

Thank you for investing in the Alberta Oil Patch when eastern Canadian liberals refused to take a chance on Western oil and gas. Alberta went to New York for the money and to Texas and Oklahoma for the men and equipment. The Yanks trained the Albertans, and the rest is history. Calgary and Edmonton are more similar to American cities than they are to Canadian cities.

What the American people need today is another amendment: state governors should be able to overrule the Congress when a stalemate of the present magnitude is paralyzing the nation’s and much of the world’s business.

Penticton, British Columbia, Canada

Boehner’s debt gamble could still go either way

From Denny Freidenrich

The news that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) walked away from the historic debt ceiling talks late last Friday is breathtaking. Having served on Capitol Hill in 1972 and followed the workings of Congress and the White House since then, I believe Mr. Boehner’s departure from the negotiating table can only end one of two ways: either he will become known as the smartest politician in modern times or the provocateur of the biggest economic calamity of our lifetime. Either way, John Boehner’s name will forever be linked to the American dream.

Laguna Beach, Calif.