The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wants a Raise

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to reporters following a televised town hall event on the “Green New Deal” in New York City, March 29, 2019. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Due to a technical error, an old edition of the Morning Jolt was sent out. This is the new Morning Jolt. We apologize for the error.

Making the click-through worthwhile: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explains why annual salaries for members of Congress should be raised from $174,000 to $178,900 and how the increase is “not even like a raise,”; an inspiring display of courage in the streets of Hong Kong; and the year gets even more embarrassing for Virginia Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez: Members of Congress Turn to Insider Trading Because They Are Underpaid

If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not exist, conservatives would have to invent her.

Her remarks on increasing the Congressional salary from $174,000 to $178,900, as a cost of living increase, in their entirety, verbatim:

There’s so much pressure to turn to lobbying firms and to cash in on members’ service after people leave, because of precisely of this issue. So it may be politically convenient and it may make you look good in the short term, for saying ‘oh, we’re not voting for pay increases,’ but we should be fighting for pay increases for every American worker. We should be fighting for a fifteen dollar minimum wage pegged to inflation so that everybody in the United States with a salary, with a wage gets a cost-of-living increase. Members of Congress, retail workers, everybody should get cost-of-living increases to account for the changes in our economy, and then when we don’t do that, it only increases the pressure on members to exploit loopholes like insider trading loopholes to make it on the backend…

That’s my issue, is that it’s superficial. You can vote against pay increases all you want. It’s – in my opinion, voting against a pay – it’s not even like a raise, it’s a cost of living adjustment. So, you can vote against a cost of living adjustment all you want, and it’ll look good on its surface, but it will – every cost of living adjustment that, that gets bypassed, is voting to increase the pressure to exploit loopholes and legal loopholes to kind of lean on other ways to enrich oneself from service. And so my whole side of it is like, it may not be optics, it may not be great optics, it may not, like, look the best in terms of your opponents could use it, exploit it as a political issue. But in substance, you might as well be transparent about a cost of living increase, fight for a cost of living increase for all American workers, peg them to a minimum wage to a cost of living increase, and then on top of it, close all of the loopholes that a lot of people use when it comes to, you know, sitting on a committee and knowing what legislation may be coming down the, the loophole and changing your stock holdings, or letting — you know these are real issues, and I don’t think that voting against a cost of living increase is going to negate the actual issues at hand. In fact, I think it only increases the pressure.

For those wondering whether a salary of only $174,000 forces members of Congress to seek out loopholes and “cash out” as lobbyists, the current base congressional salary puts members in the top 8 percent in the country, assuming their spouse has no income. They get an office budget — currently somewhere in the $1.2 million to $1.38 million range — based upon their distance from their district (for travel expenses) and the number of people it contains. They can travel, at taxpayer expense, on “Codels” — Congressional Delegations — for official business. Best of all:

. . . “members of Congress become eligible to receive a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed a total of 5 years of service. Members who have completed a total of 20 years of service are eligible for a pension at age 50, are at any age after completing a total of 25 years of service. . . . No matter their age when they retire, the amount of the members’ pension is based on their total years of service and the average of their highest three years of salary.”

Courage in the Streets of Hong Kong

Last week, residents of Hong Kong turned out in massive numbers to mark the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre, and now protests against a proposed extradition law that critics contend would allow virtually anyone in the city to be picked up and detained in mainland China. The public outrage and protests against the law have turned violent:

Hong Kong’s police commissioner says the scene around the city’s government headquarters was “chaotic” and is appealing for protesters to leave the area.

Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung told reporters Wednesday that officers used batons, pepper spray, beanbag rounds, rubber bullets, water hoses and tear gas against the demonstrators.

He said police took action after a large group of masked protesters charged onto the roads surrounding the complex in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district and started throwing objects including metal barriers at officers. He called the situation a riot.

Lo said: “This is very dangerous action that could kill someone.”

He said several people including some officers had been injured.

Thousands of protesters have descended on the area to try to prevent Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government from pushing through deeply unpopular extradition bill.

Hong Kong is part of China, but maintains a certain amount of autonomy under an agreement in place until 2047 — 50 years after the agreement that required the British to hand the city-state over to the Chinese government. Hong Kong has always had its own culture and many of its residents have no interest in becoming merely the wealthiest corner of the unfree Chinese state. Over at Slate, Joshua Keating summarizes the growing clash between Beijing and the city’s activists trying to keep an independent political climate intact:

As China’s political and economic clout has grown, so has the pressure on Hong Kong. The city’s special status is due to end in 2047, by prior arrangement, but leaders in Beijing don’t seem to want to wait that long, creating several flashpoints in recent years. In 2012, Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest a new school curriculum that included a “patriotic education” requirement. In 2014, the Occupy Central movement, also known as the Umbrella Revolution, shut down the city’s financial center in response to a new election law that allows a Beijing-approved election committee to prescreen political candidates for the city’s chief executive office.

This world can seem pretty grim some days. Vladimir Putin’s grip on Russia seems as strong as ever. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman thought he could kill Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate in Istanbul with minimal consequence. Iran’s leaders openly defend their policies of executing gays.  In Turkey, Recep Erdoğan just nullified an Istanbul mayoral election when he found the result inconvenient, and the world is watching the re-vote scheduled for June 23.

But right now, over in Hong Kong, a big group of ordinary citizens — right after marking the massacre in Tiananmen Square, knowing the potential deadly consequences of defiance — are standing up to the world’s biggest and arguably most powerful authoritarian government in the world and saying “no.” The Chinese government is almost certainly contemplating a brutal crackdown. The odds of those protesters emerging unscathed, and being able to lead anything resembling a normal life, are not good. But they’re standing up and protesting anyway, because they don’t want to live in a city where the police can knock on your door in the middle of the night and take you to a Chinese prison.

Virginia, Strongly Challenging All Other States for the ‘Most Embarrassing Politicians’ Title

Just when you thought this year couldn’t get any more embarrassing for Virginia Democrats

Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance (D-Petersburg) lost by a wide margin to former delegate Joe Morrissey for the nomination in her district outside Richmond after campaigning with Gov. Ralph Northam, former governor Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

In 2014, Democrats pressured Morrissey into resigning from the House of Delegates after he pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor after prosecutors said he had sex with Myrna Warren, his then-17-year-old receptionist.

He spent days at the General Assembly while sleeping nights at the Henrico County jail as he served a three-month work-release sentence.

His first attempt at a political comeback was in 2016, when he ran for mayor of Richmond — a race he led in the polls until his campaign tanked after a female legal client accused him of making unwanted sexual advances.

Here’s the really bad news: No Republican ran in this district.

ADDENDUM: You know the drill: buy, buy for a friend, buy a copy for Father’s Day. If you have bought, thank you, and if you have thoughts about the book upon completion –– or heck, maybe even before you finish, drop me a line or rate it on Amazon. I am told one of the best things you can do to support a book is to offer high ratings on the site and leave comments about what you liked.

As I’ve mentioned, for now, the book is only available through Amazon, so you will probably not find it in your local bookstore — unless they order a copy themselves. This is part of the deal when you publish through Amazon; after a certain period of time, other venues will have the option of offering the book if it sells well enough.

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