Ocasio-Cortez redistributes her staff’s incomes

A young woman with no real-world experience is about to learn the hard way that her ideology is impractical.  I have to give Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez credit for sincerity in her announcement on Twitter that she plans to compress the pay scale of her staff, reallocating the budget she receives for staff, and cutting the pay at the top, while increasing the pay at the bottom. If she stays in office long enough, the consequences of implementing leftist cant will become clear to her (and us) over time, so it may be a teaching experience” (as former President Obama called it).  Stephanie Aiken of Roll Call sympathetically reports:

Claudia Pagon Marchena, like so many Hill staffers, moonlighted at a Washington, D.C., eatery to pay her rent until she took a job with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She celebrated her last day at her coffee shop job that same week.

That’s because Ocasio-Cortez, who has called on fellow lawmakers to pay their staffs a “living wage,” is making an example out of her own office. The New York Democrat has introduced an unusual policy that no one on her staff will make less than $52,000 a year — an almost unheard of amount for many of the 20-somethings whose long hours make House and Senate offices run.

For Pagon Marchena, 22, the pay bump meant an end to a grueling, seven-day-a-week work schedule that was wearing down her resolve to stay in Washington, where rents average more than $2,000 a month.

Congress, which loves spending taxpayers’ money, already is “studying” giving better pay to lower level staff (meaning increasing their own allowances for staff), but Sandy O wants action  now  (even if impractical) because she’s the boss!

Aiken gently, and many paragraphs into the article, mentions some of the practical problems:

 Ocasio-Cortez’s solution requires sacrifices for staffers at the top of the pay scale, potentially opening her to criticism from the right that her office policies, like her political identity as a Democratic socialist, call for a form of class warfare.

It could also pose challenges to attracting and retaining older employees who have obligations such as mortgages and child care — which in D.C. can cost $23,000 a year for a single child.  

Salaries in Ocasio-Cortez’s office top out at $80,000, Trent said. That’s well below the median pay for Hill chiefs of staff at $154,634, according to the Legistorm analysis. And it’s a fraction of what experienced staffers could make in other jobs in Washington. 

[Ocasio-Cortez’s communications director Corbin] Trent acknowledged that some people would have to take pay cuts to work in the office. He said that was a trade-off that employees had been willing to make: “I don’t think you always put the burden on the bottom.”

He included himself, noting that he has two children and makes $67,000 a year. “Is it easy? No,” he said. “But part of walking the walk is understanding that everyone is going to have a little bit of a struggle. You divide it up. You work together.”

Because Ocasio-Cortez has no real-world experience, she will not see the foreseeable consequences. For a while, she will retain senior staff at low pay because they are committed to the ideological goals they think that they share with her. They also will be benefitted by the prominence she enjoys, reaping personal visibility and attention from the media.

That will work for only as long as her prominence lasts, and as long as senior staff can continue to make personal sacrifices, (and persuade their spouses and kids that their sacrifices are worth it).  Even more importantly, the logic of equality doesn’t stop with her own salary, which is set by law at $174,000. There are signs that she is enjoying this level of income, what with her moving to a luxury apartment complex and dressing in designer duds. But sooner or later, staff will begin to resent her luxuries compared to their own sacrifices.

Courtesy UK Daily Mail

They will “ask” for loans, gifts, and other financial help, and will discover that sauce for their goose is not the same thing as sauce for her gander.

The staff members who are perceived as capable will receive other offers, maybe from other progressive members of Congress, maybe from media, or maybe from lobbyists. They can’t spend the ideological satisfaction, prestige and prominence they receive in lieu of market-level salaries for their skills. Sooner or later, the ideological jollies wear thin, especially as other family members/lovers complain about the sacrifices thrust on them.

So, she will lose the services of the best of them, and there is always the danger that the accumulated resentment over their sacrifices in the name of her ideological purity will also have a high market price.  Lower level staff always have been willing to work for low wages because they value the experience they accumulate. This is the underlying logic of an income pyramid. They can be overruled when wrong by more experienced staff who catch their mistakes. But now, she will be stocking up on low pay/low experience/low competence staff, and will have trouble retaining the good ones with the experience to do their jobs well.

There will definitely be a market for a tell-all tale or two of the chaos that inevitably follow an incompetent ideologue in charge of a serious operation.

Ocasio-Cortez has no concept of her ignorance. The only question I have is whether the harm she does in office will outweigh the mirth she generates for those of us watching her crash and burn.

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