In democracies such as ours, our elected officials are considered public servants. How much should these full time public servants be paid?

In Brazil, members of Congress are trying to raise their own pay to $187,000 per year. This should indeed be greeted with derisiveness, considering Brazil's average per capita GDP is less than $12,000 per year. But before we condemn them too much, let's take a look at our own beacon of democratic values. The difference is only one of degree. Members of the United States Congress make almost as much as the Brazilians are asking for—$174,000 per year. Average GDP per American is around $53,000. So instead of asking for 15 times what the average citizen gets, our Congresspersons satisfy themselves with a modest 3.2 times what the average citizen gets. Neither one is just.

How much should an elected public servant be paid? They should be paid the same amount that their average constituent makes. Politicians at the national level should make what an average American makes. (We're using the per capita GDP figure to be nice; the actual median personal income is significantly lower. GDP, household income, personal income, or even minimum wage income could all be plausible choices, depending on how harsh you want to be.) State politicians can make the average income in their respective states. What better way to ensure that our elected leaders are keeping the interests of the middle class in mind than to give them a middle class paycheck?

If our public servants create public policies that help everyone prosper, they will see themselves prosper as well. If our public servants want a raise, the public must get a raise too. Elected representatives should represent the people. Financially and otherwise.

For those who cry that they cannot possibly live on such a meager amount of money: yes you can. The people you have asked to serve do.

For those who argue that such modest salaries would prevent a certain type of high-earning elite individual from running for public office: good.

[Photo: AP]