Friday, September 27, 2013

Poor Gingrey

Photo courtesy of
Laura Basset/The Huffington Post
Last week Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) complained in a closed-door GOP meeting that many congressional aides "may be 33 years old now and not making a lot of money. But in a few years they can just go to K Street and make 500,000 a year. Meanwhile I'm stuck here making $172,000 a year."

The context of his remarks was a conversation about the increased costs Congressional legislators and their staffers may have to endure because of partisan maneuvering related to the Affordable Care Act.

As the ACA was originally written, President Obama had expressly allowed the continuance of the federal government health plan - essentially an employer-based health plan for Congress and its staff. But then Republicans attached an amendment to the ACA to force Congressional legislators and their staff to instead purchase coverage in the new health insurance exchanges without any employer contribution. Why? Perhaps they cynically assumed if federal legislators knew their own pocketbooks would be affected they wouldn’t pass the bill, and in the meantime they could pretend they were only doing what was fair. After all, the public should be outraged over the supposed "special treatment" Obama wanted Congress to enjoy! But Congress saw through this ruse, and passed the ACA without this added language.

But Gingrey and other top Republicans are still pushing the Orwellian-titled "No Special Treatment for Congress Act" in a last-ditch effort to turn Congress against the ACA. His colleagues are none to happy with the tactic as it means they will lose their free government health coverage. Thus, Gingrey’s “poor me” quote about how rich these complainers actually are compared to him.

We feel for him. So we decided to see if we could help him out with some food stamps. Just Harvest's Ken Regal checked the eligibility guidelines for him:

Turns out Mr. Gingrey meets the gross income limit – as long as he has 26 people in his household*. Unless of course he's over the asset limit imposed by Pennsylvania and some other states. But what are the odds that he's been able to sock away $9,000 in savings with 26 mouths to feed?**

Oh, and that's with the higher income limits available through categorical eligibility – now that he voted to eliminate that, he'd been ineligible again if the House bill was approved by the Senate and White House.***

*Only 19 required if someone in the household is elderly or disabled.
 **Just checked his online financial disclosure data here. It turns out he has a net worth of somewhere between $2.9 and $7.6 million dollars. Good thing for him that he lives in Georgia, where the state opted out of the asset test.
***oops, Georgia isn't one of the states that opted into categorical eligibility, so at the regular income limits, he needed 32 people in his household anyway. We still have to see if he meets the "net income guidelines," and for that we’d need his mortgage statement, child care expenses, utility bills, and probably several other items as well.

But here's the kicker: Members of Congress actually earn $174,000 per year, not $172,000. When he turns in his pay stubs and the caseworker discovers that he understated his income, that will set off all kinds of reds flags for his phone interview. He’ll likely be denied after all. It’s a good thing Rep. Gingrey supports cracking down on "waste, fraud, and abuse" in the food stamp program to catch all the scoundrels like him.

--Ken Regal, Executive Director

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