Back in Spring 1976 as a junior at Texas A&M University majoring in Forest Management, one of my required courses was Economics 301. My professor was Dr. Phil Gramm. A tenured professor making around $75,000 per year. For as long as he remained at Texas A&M University.
Some might remember him as the long-time (Jan. 3, 1985 – Nov. 30, 2002) United States Senator from Texas. A Republican Senator.
In 1976, Professor Gramm ran against U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D) in the Democratic primary. He lost.
In 1978, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat, and re-elected in 1980 and 1982. Gramm was a DINO (Democrat In Name Only) in every sense of that acronym. The American Conservative Union gave Gramm a score of 89 for his first four years in office.
Gramm had been on the House Budget Committee but had a falling out with leadership and was thrown off the Committee. In response, Gramm resigned as a United States Congressman on January 5, 1983. He ran as a Republican in the Texas special election to fill his vacated seat. He won. As a Republican. Gramm became the first Republican to represent the Texas 6th District since its creation in 1846.
That should tell you something about politics right there, both in terms of name recognition and in terms of party affiliation.
In 1984, Gramm ran for the United States Senate to replace the retiring John Tower. As a Republican. To replace a Republican.
Gramm won re-election to the United States Senate three times, serving until his retirement on November 30, 2002.
When Gramm retired, newspapers throughout the world announced that he had $64 million in his campaign war chest. He got to keep that money. Did not have to turn it over to the State of Texas or the U.S. government. Did not have to return — indeed, DID NOT return — any of it to those who had donated to his campaigns throughout the years, or to his constituents as a “Thank you for your support all these years!”
One person who donated consistently to his campaigns was yours truly. I got not a single cent back. It was that $64 million that resulted in me having never ever ever contributed another cent to a political campaign. I have volunteered my time, but not a single politician at any level is getting a penny of my hard-earned cash.
I bring this up because of the special election in Pennsylvania held a couple of days ago in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, a reliably Republican District which President Twitler won by 20%. The two candidates were Conor Lamp, a Democrat, and Rick Saccone, Republican. Lamp won, making him the first Democrat to represent the District since 2001 and only the sixth Democrat in the District’s history, beginning in 1826.
Current news is reporting that as of February 21, Lamb had raised $3.9 million and spent $3 million, and that Saccone had raised $900,000 and spent $600,000.
For the sake of argument, let’s use those figures.
What do they mean?
Well, essentially it means that Saccone gets to keep $300,000. For losing. I want to be such a loser.
Lamb would get to keep $900,000. The difference is that Saccone, having lost, can spend his $300,000 immediately. Lamb must retire or lose re-election before being able to spend his $900,000, so what currently-serving politicians typically do is keep any extra money in a “campaign war chest” for future campaigns.
So let’s take this back to Professor Phil Gramm and do the math using round numbers and simple formulas. We’ll presume that tenured professor Phil Gramm, 34 in 1976, would make $75,000 annually, continue teaching until age 65, and never get a raise. Note that such a presumption on its very face is false since Texas A&M University is a public university, and we all know just how generous government jobs are. Nevertheless, here’s the math.
65 – 34 = 31 years at $75,000 per year = $2,325,000
In 1985, when Gramm was elected to the Senate, a Senator’s salary was $75,100 annually. So that’s a wash if we presume no raises for Senators. However, here are the actual salaries for Senators since 1985:
1985 – $75,100
1986 – $75,100
1987 – $89,500
1988 – $89,500
1989 – $89,500
1990 – $98,400
1991 – $101,900
1992 – $129,500
1993 – $133,600
1994 – $133,600
1995 – $133,600
1996 – $133,600
1997 – $133,600
1998 – $136,700
1999 – $136,700
2000 – $141,300
2001 – $145,100
2002 – $150,000
Total – $2,126,300
It’s pretty much a wash in total actual salary, but the professorship covers 31 years whereas the senatorship covers only 18 years. I think I could handle an extra 13 years off!
So now that $64,000,000 comes into play. Does anyone really think that a teacher, even a tenured college professor, perhaps even a Nobel Prize winner, would retire with $64,000,000? (Note that the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2017 was awarded a mere $1,110,000.)
If we’re really generous with the professorship, perhaps Gramm would have written an Economics book that not only got published but was used as a textbook in Economics classes throughout the world. Let’s consider the annual salary totals a wash and be generous and give Gramm a Nobel Prize in Economics and an Economics textbook used as a standard in classes everywhere. Does one really think all of that would have added up to $64,000,000? Maybe if he wrote an Economics horror story. Wait. Gramm WAS an economics horror story…..
Now you know, though, why rich people like the Heinzes, duPonts, Kennedys, and even my own representative, Darrel Issa, a multimillionaire, go into politics. It’s not their desire to serve the public, IMHO. It’s their desire to get an easy job that pays well, has great medical benefits, has a great retirement salary that one can get after only a few terms in political office — certainly nothing like a commoner working until age 65, or later — and, of course, getting to keep everything left over in that ol’ campaign war chest.