Well, here's a billion dollars the US can have

Cut out some perks for senators and their staffers, like hair care and stationary, and we're left with a pile of cash to put toward our debt

Photo illustration / Shemetov Maxim / Newscom
A man uses a weight training machine at a gym in this photo illustration. Each senator is designated $1,238.56 for fitness club memberships. If that expense, along with some others, were cut, the US would find itself with another billion dollars, writes guest blogger Joshua M. Brown.

With the looming debt ceiling crisis roiling the country, I think it's important that we all do our part and try to find ways to pitch in. I think I've found a bunch of money we could use to alleviate the debt and buy ourselves a bit more time.

First, since Congress is no longer functioning or doing its job, we can probably save some cash by not paying them until they do. There are 100 Senators and 433 Representatives in the House making a base annual salary of $174,000. I'm sure they'd hate to be paid for not working, so there's $93 million we can set aside. We can leave aside the health and pension benefits from what we're reclaiming -we're not animals after all!

The Senate actually represents a treasure trove of lost money, we could root around there for days finding excess cash that could sure be of use right now.

According to a document at Treasury called the 2010 Detail of Appropriations, Outlays, and Balances" Senators and their staffers actually cost tax payers a grand total of $815,257,000 in 2010 above and beyond their regular salaries. Yes, that's correct taxpayers, almost a billion dollars in non-salary expenses for the maintenance of 100 men and women in civil service.

These "appropriations and outlays" consisted of line items like:

$1,238.56 per senator for "Senatorial Health and Fitness Club Memberships"

$333.87 per Senator for Hair Care Revolving Fund"

$1,666.73 per Senator for "Senate Gift Shop Revolving Fund"

$2988.21 per Senator for "Stationery"

$44,164 per Senator for "Use of Foreign Currency"

$135,249.22 per Senator for "Miscellaneous Costs"

Haircuts, gym memberships, gift shop tchotchkes - just some of the things a $174,000 annual income (with free healthcare and retirement funding) apparently doesn't cover.

These absurdities and others add up to an obscene $8,162,000 or so per Senator or a total of $815 million. Stripping them away while Congress declines to serve in their elected roles, plus that $100 million in regular salaries, gives us almost a billion dollars we can subtract from the deficit problem. And this is before we've even taken a peak at the House of Representatives' "expenditures" let alone those of the White House.

I'm just trying to be resourceful here during a difficult time, hope this money will help...

Data Sources

112th Congress, 1st Session (TheCapitol.net)

The Senate: How Much Does it Cost (Reality Blog)

Combined Statement of Receipts, Outlays, and Balances (Treasury.gov)

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