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Published: Tuesday, 4/5/2011

Pity party

What do you get when you send a former cast member of MTV's The Real World to Congress? In the case of Republican Sean Duffy, a loss of perspective and complaints about his $174,000 annual salary.

The Wisconsin congressman proved the whining he did on MTV's reality show wasn't an act. During a recent town meeting in his district, the House freshman was asked by an unemployed construction worker why his wife, a schoolteacher, was expected to take a pay cut when politicians rarely cut their own salaries.

Mr. Duffy said without embarrassment that $174,000 sounds like a lot, but doesn't go far these days. When the constituent responded that such pay was still three times what he was making at odd jobs after losing his construction job, the congressman doubled down on self-pity.

Mr. Duffy said that he had a mortgage, six kids, and student loans. "I drive a used minivan," he said. "If you think I'm living high off the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now."

In Wisconsin, where the median household income is less than $50,000 a year, Mr. Duffy's whining is likely to fall on deaf ears. He may be new to the House, but he already has surrounded himself with Congress' insularity.

No politician who is presiding over the shrinking of the middle class should complain about his struggle to pay bills while his constituents are hurting in untold ways. To do so only suggests that Mr. Duffy is living in an unreal world.

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