Hint for wealthy lawmakers: don’t seek pity from voters

I’ll never understand why well-paid members of Congress say things like this in public.

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) appeared on MSNBC with Chris Jansing this morning to attack President Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, which includes some tax increases on the wealthy. Taking up the typical GOP talking point, Fleming said raising taxes on wealthy “job creators” is a terrible idea that kills jobs because many of these people are small business owners who pay taxes through personal income rates.

Fleming is himself a business owner, so Jansing asked, “If you have to pay more in taxes, you would get rid of some of those employees?” Fleming responded by saying that while his businesses made $6.3 million last year, after you “pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food,” his profits “a mere fraction of that” — “by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over.”

The conservative congressman’s $400,000 post-expenses profit would suggest he makes roughly eight times the average U.S. household income. It’s unclear if this “$400,000 left over” also includes his generous, six-figure, taxpayer-financed salary.

What’s more, I can’t quite wrap my head around Fleming’s arithmetic. If his businesses made $6.3 million, and he has 500 employees, and has a variety of expenses, and he still has “maybe $400,000 left over,” it would suggest he pays those workers about $10,000 a year.

In any case, when the MSNBC host said viewers at home may not see Jansing in “a sympathetic position,” the Republican immediately reverted to “class warfare” talking points.

If it seems like these incidents come from forth often, it’s because they do. Last month, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) complained that his $174,000 per year congressional salary is inadequate, given all “the hours” he works. In March, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) complained to voters that he’s “struggling” on his $174,000 congressional salary, and to prove the point, he complained about “driving a used minivan.” In April, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), the 23rd richest member of Congress who owns millions of dollars in farm and ranch land, whined that he and his wife “are struggling like everyone else.”

And now John Fleming is complaining on national television about $400,000 in post-expenses take-home pay? What’s wrong with these people?

As a rule, politicians make an effort not to appear out of touch. These guys aren’t even trying.