Style

Using Hill Staff As Political Pawns

I’m going off topic for a few hundred words to support my former colleagues on Capitol Hill. If you want the fashion advice sans soap box, come back at 10:00AM for regularly scheduled programming.

It’s unavoidable that the disgust and anger that voters feel toward Members of Congress trickles down to their staff.  But when Americans decide to “stick it to the man” by supporting policies designed to hurt Members of Congress–office budget and health care cuts–the people they really maim aren’t the elected officials.  It’s the staff.

Stripping staff of their health benefits has become a linchpin in negotiations to end the Shutdown, and the idea of eliminating employer-sponsored insurance coverage for Congressmen and their employees is finding fans on all wavelengths of the political spectrum.  Supporters of this proposal see congressional staff as leeches, sucking taxpayers dry.  But they are real people with families who will be devastated by a policy meant to punish the 535 most hated people in America, many of whom are so wealthy that they won’t feel the sting.

Who are they? Hill staff are highly educated people (29-percent have advanced degrees) who work long hours doing challenging, often frustrating work. (You think you hate Congress, try working there.)  Many staff are experts in areas like economics, veterans’ benefits, agriculture, etc.  They oversee multi-billion dollar budgets and draft laws that affect millions of people.

What are they paid? The average legislative assistant, Congress’s mid-level workhorses, earns $45,982 per year.  While the average salary for a private-sector, political professional in D.C. is $115,286.

Adjusted for inflation, staff salaries are nearly identical to 1990 rates. Congressional budgets have been cut by double digits since 2010 so raises are out of the question, and most staffers are feeling the same financial pangs that voters are feeling.

And in case you were wondering, Members of the House of Representatives make $174,000.  Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 9.1% increase over their 1990 salary of $96,600.

As for benefits…Currently, congressional employees buy their health insurance from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.  Staffers pay the employee contribution, and the government covers the employer portion.  On average, the government pays 72% of the premium for a federal employee.  Private sector employers who offer similar coverage pay an average of 73% per employee.

Congressional employees don’t get special, “gold-plated” insurance.  They have the same coverage that other federal employees can purchase from insurers like Blue Cross.  But on January 1, a change written into the healthcare law will force staffers to give up their current employee coverage and buy insurance through the exchanges.  The government wants to continue paying its employer contribution on these policies, but ultra-conservatives have labeled that a “subsidy.”

As NPR explains, however, the result would be the same type of coverage many Americans will receive with only the typical employer portion covered, not a “sweetheart deal.”  And it would not be the same coverage other federal employees receive, as only congressional staff were forced into the exchanges.

How does this effect average Americans?  Several staffers who spoke with The New Yorker believe that if they have to cover the entire cost of their insurance, they will be force to leave the Hill.  Most voters care little about this collateral damage, but they should.

As salaries and benefits are reduced, beleaguered staffers are leaving the government in droves. Studies and newspaper articles have pointed out that Congress’s “brain drain” is forcing knowledgeable, experienced staff out, creating turnover that decimates institutional knowledge, leading to ill-informed policies and more partisan rancor. And eliminating health coverage will only accelerate the breakdown.

I wrote this post because it kills me to see public servants used as pawns.  Working in a congressional office isn’t a job, it’s a calling.  No one does it to get rich.  Staffers accept the long hours, the non-competitive pay and the angry voices on the other end of the phone because they are trying to help their fellow Americans, sometimes for very personal reasons.

If you want your public policy written by subject matter experts who toil over bill language and budgets trying to do what they believe is right, then you musn’t let a handful of partisan politicians steal the benefits that staffers earn through their labor.  Congress can’t recruit and retain the best people for important jobs when national magazines run headlines like, “Why Would Anybody in Her Right Mind Go to Work for a Congressman?

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    63 comments

  1. An Angry LD says:

    I liked the original title: “Go F**k Yourself, David Vitter” better. But I suppose he is still paying people for that. Thank you for verbalizing the thoughts I cannot say.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  2. Sandra says:

    Very we’ll said!

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Jerry says:

      well*, not we’ll… Guessing you’re one of the staffers….

      October 16, 2013/Reply
  3. Clementine says:

    Very well said.

    Although I don’t work on the Hill, I work for a large state government and find the public sector employee bashing to be demoralizing, offensive and generally incorrect. When I went into public service, I accepted that at some points, we would be the ‘bad guys’ or the scapegoats, but I have been shocked at how nasty it has gotten.

    I work with incredibly bright people and then I see not just citizens, but also elected officials using public employees as pawns. Both State and Federal employees have had unpaid furlough days and no raises in addition to making less than their private sector counterparts, but what gets a lot of people through it is the knowledge that they are doing something important. When enough people start telling you that what you do doesn’t matter, either by words or actions, you start to lose that motivation.

    When people ask me how I could possibly work in a place so known for dysfunction, corruption and obnoxious politics, I tell them: “I do it so there’s one more smart person in a room trying to do the right thing.”

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Heather says:

      Amen, sister. I work in a similar situation, in a building that is falling apart, while my state spent billions on a new courthouse with gold plating and marble.
      I was involved in a major elevator accident a couple years back, and the general public’s statement was “lazy state employees should take the stairs.” I worked on the 13th floor at the time, 13 flights of stairs several times a day are not exactly practical….
      I’ve worked until 3:00 a.m. to complete time sensitive projects with a quick turn around, and still put in ample amounts of unpaid overtime on a weekly basis.
      I truly love my actual job, but mandatory pay cuts are taking their toll. Unfortunately our media keeps claiming that the average state employee makes more than twice what I, and most of my peers, actually make.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
  4. A loyal hill staffer says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  5. D Hill Staffer says:

    Joining the chorus to say thank you. I agree 100% with what you’ve posted here. Especially during times like these, with the shutdown and office budget cuts every year, it’s hard to deal with the criticism about Hill staffers (our incompetence, laziness, lack of respect for taxpayer dollars, etc.). I know of many offices that could be SO much more productive and thoughtful if they had the money to replace LAs that have left and hire people with more experience. I’ve loved my years on the Hill and hope to stay longer, but the burnout factor, uncompetitive salary, and instability of our health care benefits are making me daydream more and more about the private sector.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  6. Rachel says:

    Well said, Belle! I wish more people across the country would take the time to educate themselves around this issue, plus the entire shutdown in general. It seems like too many citizens are regurgitating sound bites from pundits (both left and right) rather than understanding the issues and making informed opinions. Let’s hope this gets resolved soon. The Senate misses it’s first paycheck this Friday, and so do countless other Federal workers. I am worries about my staff assistant friends who make about $30,000 a year. They certainly don’t have an extra month of rent money lying around.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  7. Kresling says:

    While I agree that staffers’ benefits shouldn’t be cut (or anyone’s, for that matter), the author goes a bit far to call the work a ‘calling.’ More often it’s careerism. They may not ‘do it to get rich’; but rather in the hope of eventual riches, maybe even (fingers-crossed) as a congressperson-who-cuts-staffers’-benefits themselves someday.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Speaking from experience? Nearly every person I know who left the Hill would happily go back, even with the low pay, to have the chance to do that work again. Some of my friends are even taking unpaid fellow positions on the Hill to go back. I’m sure there are those who hope the Hill will catapult them to fortune, but for most, they’re looking to make it a long term commitment, but when the reality of having a family clashes with the job, they make other choices. Or they burn out and go into other service careers like teaching, the law or to run for office at the local and state level, which is hardly going to make them rich.

      Like I said, maybe for some they choose these careers to pad a resume, but I didn’t know many people like that.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
      • Friend of staffers says:

        Writing to support Belle’s response here – my boyfriend worked in Congress and many of our friends still do. Not a one of them are doing it to gold plate their resumes. None of them have elected position dreams. All of them believe in bettering the system, working to ensure their constituents’ voices are heard. Many of them take on special, unassigned projects (i.e. saving a post office, or ensuring neglected populations are receiving support) because they believe in the work.

        People who do it to be special and flash a badge don’t last long on the hill. You have to love and believe in what you are supporting (which isn’t necessarily their congressman).

        October 16, 2013/Reply
      • Rachel says:

        Commenting again to support Belle on this one. My husband works on the Hill right now, and it was his first job out of college. He is still with the same office, and does it out of a true calling to help his home state and the country at large. Believe me, he isn’t doing it to pad his resume. He would have jumped ship years ago if that was the case. He will most likely leave when his member retires, loses and election, or dies in office. Or, if our family situation changes (the Hill creates very long hours).

        Most people who work for Congress do it because they believe in their Member, want to help their home state/district, or because of a legitimate higher calling to public service. Those who do it to get a leg up in the private sector are easy to spot, and they aren’t the ones who succeed on the Hill.

        October 16, 2013/Reply
      • G says:

        I’ve seen quite a few interns who spend a summer on the Hill to “pad their resumes,” but most of the Hill staffers I know, including myself, do it because of a passion for public service. I’m here, because I want to be a voice on the inside for the things I believe in. I dread the day that I’ll have to leave the Hill for, most likely, the private sector. It’ll happen, not just because of pay, which is certainly part of it, but because the hours and lifestyle are simply unsustainable. People don’t leave the Hill after a handful of years and make millions on the private sector. They leave and make decent salaries that are finally commensurate to their education and experience.

        October 16, 2013/Reply
      • grlnextdoor says:

        Amen to Belle! I’m a female senior staffer with a family. I could go tomorrow to a job in the private sector tomorrow that pays double, but I do strongly feel my “calling” is to be supporting the Member I currently work for and his constituents. My husband and I have said time and again that after my Member’s time is done in Congress, that we’d take the cut to our family salary and at that point I’d stay at home full time with our children. I say that to point out that I’m not on Capitol Hill waiting for the next big pay check. It is a true honor to be in public service and doing what little I can to support my Member and his constituents.

        October 16, 2013/Reply
    • E says:

      As a staffer – working on the Hill should be enough to turn most people against running for elected office. I don’t know anyone for whom that’s a motivation, and it certainly isn’t mine.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
  8. Diane says:

    I had no idea. So insightful. Thank you so much for this enlightening piece.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  9. A concerned private sector worker says:

    I think Vitter’s point is that Congress should not write laws that don’t apply to them. No one else on the exchanges is getting help from their employers, should Congress? If Congress wants premium assistance, they should have kept the FEHBP. Also, the “Brain Drain” is not unique to the Hill. Many companies have been forced to layoff workers because they cannot afford them, often because of rising health insurance costs. I am not expecting my employer to keep me on at a loss, should Congress?

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      They didn’t. Anyone who had employer offered health insurance would have their premiums changed and expanded to comply with Obamacare. Under pressure for GOPers, Dems conceded and passed a Grassley Amdt. that forced staffers to have the same type of plans offered in the exchanges. The idea was to prove that the insurance being offered through exchanges would be of the same quality as other plans. But it backfired, huge.

      Also, Congress isn’t operating at a loss or exceeding their budgets. I know private employees are hurting too. Businesses are cutting staff and benefits, nothing is guaranteed. But the motivation for cutting budgets and depleting benefits isn’t to save a business from closure or shore up the bottom line, it’s rhetorical. Congressmen want to say they cut their budgets (not their salaries though). They want to say that they fixed an “unfair” subsidy for “Washington Insiders,” so they create a narrative that allows that.

      Let’s face it, Vitter knows the GOP will get crushed by public perception of the shutdown. He and his ilk want to be able to tell Tea Party voters that they stood firm and that Democrats kept the government shut to protect a subsidy that enriched hated congressional employees.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
      • A concerned private sector worker says:

        Yes, but staffers are still getting employer subsidies in the Marketplace , which are banned for everyone else, correct? In that respect, Congress wrote a law that does not apply to them. Whether that was their intention or not, it needs to be fixed.

        October 16, 2013/Reply
        • E says:

          Employer subsidies are not “banned” for anyone else. There is nothing to prevent an employer from providing employees additional funds to cover the cost of purchasing healthcare on an exchange. Furthermore, OPM has ruled that staff must purchase on the DC small business exchange only – the exchange designed for small business owners to purchase insurance for their employees (which they then subsidize, often up to 73%). This will be more expensive than the individual exchanges, and forces district employees onto DC-based plans that may not provide access to doctors, etc. outside of the DC area.

          October 16, 2013/Reply
          • Lauren says:

            Exactly. In fact, you see “good” companies that would otherwise not be able to offer affordable coverage (e.g. rates that would beat the Marketplace rates) offering their employees “subsidies” to go out and get coverage when they are under the number for the employer mandate or for their part time workforce (see, Trader Joe’s).

            The idea that Congress is “just now” subjecting themselves to the law is laughable. It’s a talking point created by one idiot Member trying to get out of the doghouse and prevent an attack from the right. The end.

            October 16, 2013/Reply
          • Mia says:

            E, agreed about the district employees. I know a bunch that live far away from DC, and they are concerned that the geographic limitations on the DC-based plans means that their coverage would be illusory but still very expensive.

            October 16, 2013/Reply
        • G says:

          They are not banned AT ALL. An employer is certainly entitled to provide their employee assistance to purchase insurance on the exchange. There’s nothing in the law that forbids that. If anything, by not allowing employer contributions and forcing employees onto the exchange, Congress is exempting itself from the requirement that large employers provide insurance to their employees. Like Republican Congressman Darrel Issa said, by taking away the employer contribution, Congress would be a “dead beat employer.”

          October 16, 2013/Reply
      • ** Rolls Down Hill says:

        Just a reminder that this is only personal staff. All leadership staff (i.e. Senate Maj Leader) and committee staff are exempt.

        January 15, 2014/Reply
    • KW says:

      The reason people are in the exchanges is because they don’t have employer coverage. That’s why employers who don’t provide insurance are charged a penalty if their employees have to enter the exchanges. Most of these people will receive a tax-payer funded subsidy based on their income levels.

      There’s no good reason why staff should have been made to give up ACA-compliant coverage to enter the exchange. But there’s definitely no reason why they should be forced to pay 100% of the costs when most people in the exchanges are receiving a taxpayer funded subsidy.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
    • E says:

      The laws do apply to Congress. The true “exemption” is that Congressional employees (in member offices, not leadership or committee staff) are the only employees in the nation whose employer offers a healthcare plan that they are legally forbidden to purchase. FEHBP is still available – for committee and leadership staff, as well as the rest of the federal government, with premium assistance.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
      • Cally says:

        And as a woman who has a very sacred relationship with my lady-doctor, I’m extremely worried that I will be unable to keep him. We are the only body of employees in the country that are legally mandated to lose our existing coverage–to be further penalized by losing my employer contribution would be devastating.

        October 17, 2013/Reply
  10. Courtney says:

    Thank you Belle!!

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  11. Mary says:

    Thanks for posting this. I work in the private sector, and it was good to hear some of the reality for staffers. I knew staffers weren’t paid nearly as much, but having specific facts about it is always good for understanding.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  12. Cynthia W says:

    This is exactly how teachers have felt for years – not only do we get it from parents and the public at large, but we’ve been used as pawns in the partisan and culture wars during the last 20 years. I work for a private school, but have watched in horror as politicians strip away benefits, increase requirements, demonize hard-working people, add testing, testing, testing, and play fast-and-loose with the truth.

    Many, many of my friends, who also hard-working, highly-educated professionals have left teaching in droves when the mental, emotional and financial price became too high to remain in the public sector. While their lives have less stress in them, many of them long for the days when they were able to teach.

    Pretty soon, no one with half a brain is going to want to do any of these jobs – and then where will we be?

    Seriously – hate Congress? Vote them all out, but don’t punish the people who work for them.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Totally agree. I was once cursed out by a constituent who told me that if I was even paid $1 it was too much. He then asked me to figure out why he wasn’t getting his VA checks. He needed me, but he thought I was worthless. Helpful.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
      • Cynthia W says:

        I interned for a semester in my local office – even after serving in the Marines, I was shocked by the way that some people talked to other people on the phone.

        I had a guy tell me that he paid my salary and I had to take his nasty attitude – I told him “well, I actually don’t get paid at all since I’m a college intern and my congressman has informed his staff and interns that we don’t have to listen to profanity, so I’ll be going now” and I hung up on him. We were firmly told that we did not have to listen to threats or profanity and could terminate the call when it came to that.

        I did listen to some serious conspiracy theories though – black helicopters and jackbooted Russians coming to take away our civil liberties and the whole 9 yards.

        October 16, 2013/Reply
      • Stephanie says:

        Yeah those guys want to burn down the government, but they still want their SS, disability, medicare, etc. Idiots. It kills me that the average person is now so dumb that they fail to recognize the necessity of a functional government.

        October 16, 2013/Reply
        • Belle says:

          I think they’re just clouded by their own disdain. They feel like nothing is going right, and sometimes they’re not wrong about that. But the process is partially to blame, we’ve filled the space with nothing but negativity and finger pointing, so even the good we’re doing gets buried.

          October 16, 2013/Reply
  13. Stue88 says:

    Thank you for writing this. I wrote earlier in the year when you put a post up about taking a step back to take a step forward (I took a staff assistant position last Jan. after being out of a college for a few years to get my foot in the door). Now I’m wondering if it was a huge mistake. No one is moving up (MRAs are slashed and the increase in unpaid fellows – i.e. unpaid staff – are on the rise) and people at the highest levels aren’t leaving, just people at the lower levels. I can barely make ends meet as is but would literally not be able to stay if I didn’t have health benefits. And the worst part is that they are just going to keep filling these positions because you have people whose mom and dad will pay for them to come here – sans benefits – and work for peanuts. It was my dream for years to come to the Hill and I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave after a year.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  14. Addison says:

    Great post Belle. I’m now in the private sector but still involved in politics and especially now, my friends and family say they don’t know how I can stand working in such a rancorous environment. Well thank God somebody’s willing, right? The worst part is, many of these people who want to strip staffers of benefits will be too lazy to get to the polls and exercise their right to fire the only people responsible for this mess.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  15. GoGoGo says:

    YES. Thanks Belle.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  16. Former Caseworker/LC says:

    Forget about Capitol Hill– what about the state and district offices? I worked in two state offices for 4 years doing casework before I moved to the Hill to do legislative work for 2 years, and constituent services are incredibly difficult. You have to manage peoples’ expectations, hound federal agencies often times for weeks to get an answer on very complex personal problems, and put on an empathetic and diplomatic face if the response is unfavorable and try to convince the constituent you, or your boss, did everything you could. What would happen if THOSE people left? Even with the lower pay in states with lower costs of living, it would have been terribly hard to support a family on what I made doing Senate casework. I have since left the Hill and would give anything to go back because I loved the work and I’m not the only one. People like that are just what this country needs. If no one else is going to believe in our government, the staff sure as hell does.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Yeah, casework is damn hard. Bird dogging SS, VA and disability checks/claims. Dealing with people in their worst moments when they are trying to conquer the monolith that is some of those agencies. Not a job I envy. But it’s an important one, which is why you see more offices hiring fewer policy staff and more district staff.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
  17. e says:

    Belle, this was incredibly well thought out and written. Thanks for writing it.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  18. Andi says:

    This is such a great post, thank you Belle! I don’t work on the Hill, but I’m in the non-profit sector in D.C. so I feel particularly close to this issue because it affects friends of mine. The demonization of public-sector workers is so mind-boggling and offensive to me–my father worked as a government employee for over 20 years after a 30 year career in the U.S. military, so I take it a bit personally for that reason as well. My blood literally boils when I read about this asinine amendment–I find it nothing short of jaw-dropping to see how quickly these insane Tea Partiers are willing to throw THEIR OWN STAFFERS under the bus just to hurt the Democrats and the President. And the level of ignorance surrounding understanding of the ACA, and how health care is run in this country is really disheartening to see. The ACA is designed to extend health insurance to those who have been unable to get it until now, due to cost and/or unfair insurance company policies. Anyone with existing employer insurance will not see a noticeable change in their coverage or costs. Congressional employees should be treated the same way–this is not “exempting” them from the ACA. It’s treating them like EVERYONE ELSE.

    So anyway, now that I’ve added my own rant–thank you again for writing this.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  19. Kelsey says:

    This was a great post. You brought to light a lot of information I had not considered or did not know. Thank you.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  20. elz says:

    Well said. I worked at the State Legislature years ago and loved every minute. The benefits and pay were far under value, and most of us were highly educated-all with college degrees, most with graduate degrees. All, like you said, subject matter experts who spent countless hours drafting, listening, compromising, and then briefing our bosses. Long (ridiculously long) hours were the norm, but the sense of purpose more than made up for it. The turn-over even at the state level was noticeable-you can’t sustain the hours and small pay for the long-term.
    The collateral damage in situations like this is often so easy to forget. Thank you for your perspective.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  21. emcie kaye says:

    Thank you, Belle. Very well written. I appreciate your thoughtful insights very much.

    I work for a large city’s government. One of my duties is overseeing our social media presence. The misconceptions and blame that residents share about our public employees//city services on social media can be astonishing. Even we announce good news that benefits residents, the trolls and other angry naysayers always delight in turning the announcement around to bash us “bad guys” in some way.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  22. A House staffer says:

    Belle, thank you for writing this!

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  23. Lauren says:

    Thank you!! Long time reader, first time commentor. Excellent article–both my partner and I have worked in Congress and there were many times we had to choose between eating or paying the bills. Sometimes it feels very lonely when you are trying to serve the people and they don’t seem to understand what that means.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  24. Miss Pearl says:

    Belle, this was really well done. I had no idea. Thanks for posting.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  25. Sarah says:

    Well done Belle. I worked on the Hill for three consecutive internships during college. As a post-grad I am now working full-time in DC in the private sector but only understand the reality from actually working in it. Unfortunately not many have that ability or had that experience to open them up to the realities of the Hill. That is why I think it is so important for individuals such as yourself with a strong following to address the issue accurately and appropriately.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  26. jin says:

    Is there anything we can do to help? Great post, I love the break in fashion for things like this – it’s what makes your blog different and better.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  27. jin says:

    Is there anything we can do to help? Great post, I love the break in fashion for things like this – it’s what makes your blog different and better.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  28. N says:

    Thank you Belle! As a junior hill staff making just enough to live paycheck to paycheck I can’t tell you how happy this makes me after having to listen to people on the phone yell at me for my “huge salary of 100,000.” I would be happy to make 40!

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  29. sarahm says:

    great article!!

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  30. Jax says:

    I used to work at the Legislature but left it because of the dismal pay. Even with a law degree, masters degree or doctorate, you are payed very poorly. It is even worse for women as men continue to dominate in the higher paid chief of staff positions. It is terrible to target a group of people who are already taking lower pay, long hours, lack of overtime and collective bargaining laws to work in the government sector. Well said Belle.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  31. Amy says:

    Great post Belle. Thank you for helping to educate the public about what these “political deals” actually accomplish.

    As a former legislative staffer in a state with severe budget problems I too felt the pain of severe cuts to office budgets – all in order for our bosses to say they did their part by cutting “their own” expenses. We luckily never were threatened with losing healthcare (or maybe I should say haven’t yet). However within a year of the office budget cuts, many of my former coworkers and I have left for other opportunities. In the legislature we were pressed up against the (low) salary ceiling at age 25. I hardly recognize most of the faces there now and with term limits the state legislative’s brain drain is equally frightening.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  32. Taryn says:

    Thanks for posting this!! In my previous job I handled constituent affairs for a Senator and individuals would ask me for help and in the same breath share a comment about how our office members do nothing and make a fortune. So ill-informed, it’s such a shame. Thanks for shedding light on this!

    October 16, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Some day I’ll tell full the story of the teachers who ripped into congressional salaries in a meeting with my Boss. Long story short, he told them what I make, what my rent was and how I worked weekends at a tanning salon and they sheepishly apologized. Which I appreciated, it’s not their fault the common wisdom is that we’re all fat-cats or fat cat wannabes.

      October 16, 2013/Reply
  33. EB says:

    This. Is. Awesome.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  34. Laurie says:

    Thanks for writing this, Belle. I worked for an education / government agency for almost 4 years and felt that I worked with some of the smartest, most driven folks who were there clearly NOT motivated by money. Though I eventually left the organization, I still have the highest respect for it and would love to go back to it someday. The ‘calling’ is something private industry folks will smirk at because they don’t think such a thing exists at a workplace. How wrong they are.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  35. Kimberly says:

    Thank you. While my government agency was not affected by the shutdown (we don’t receive APF funds) I have been making this exact same argument to folks who see government workers as receiving some sort of exemption when they really are not.

    October 16, 2013/Reply
  36. MamaBatch says:

    Good stuff, Belle! More politics please! I love fashion also, of course, but it takes so much energy to mine the news for bits of truth, I give up. I’d appreciate more posts like this and even additional links to reliable (not just pundits – I get irritated with NYTimes and Fox News equally.) political news.

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  37. Cally says:

    From someone who cannot (in her current employment situation) voice these same feelings, thank you so very, very much for writing this.

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  38. Pingback: Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 10.18.2013 | pink-briefcase

  39. Trista says:

    If you think working for the Hill is bad, try working for an healthcare industry. Since the the Healthcare Reform, hospitals have taken major financial penalties. The 30 day readmission penalty has had a major impact on my company. I have not had a raise in years, no cost of living raise, no bonus, nothing. I have a weekly meetings discussing the day readmission rate, and discuss the patients on the list. Many of these patients come back to the hospital for other medical reasons. So if you came in for heart failure on June 1 and 20 days later fall and break your hip, the hospital will be penalized. If a patient’s COPD exacerbates and requires a hospital admission, but the same patient does not follow up with medications and post hospital appointments, and comes back to the hospital. Guess what, the hospital is penalized for the patient’s non-compliance. But who gets and feels all of this, the middle person, the patient care takers. Why, because the hospital has to cut costs, which in return means patient care is compromised. So yes the staff on the hill is not the only ones who feel the pain. We too fell the pain of these decisions. In my experience the people making the decisions have no clue regarding the impact, because they don’t have the experience. It takes more than a business person to make decisions regarding health care. Just ask a nurse or doctor.

    June 21, 2015/Reply