Washington Evening Journal

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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 20, 2017

Rags over riches

By Andy Hallman | Nov 30, 2012

A member of the U.S. Congress makes somewhere between $175,000 and $230,000 depending on their leadership position. If you follow politics, you know that candidates often promise that they won’t give themselves a pay increase if they’re elected.

U.S. politicians who want to appear modest had better hope they never have to run against Jose Mujica, because their austerity will pale in comparison. Mujica is the president of Uruguay and donates 90 percent of his salary to charity. And that’s saying something because Mujica is not a rich man at all.

According to a story published in the BBC, Mujica’s monthly salary is $12,000. After subtracting his charitable donation he is left with $775, roughly equal to the wage of a typical Uruguayan.

Mujica and his wife turned down the opportunity to live in the luxurious statehouse offered to them and instead they have opted to live at his wife’s farm off a dirt road near the capital city.

In the article, Mujica says that he does not feel poor but instead feels “free.” Since he has so few possessions, he doesn’t need money to maintain them, he says. He says people in rich countries are so busy acquiring material things that they become a slave to their work.

I don’t know enough about Mujica to say whether his humble living quarters make him a good president, but it can’t hurt. It’s nice to see a president live as a commoner, since this would have been rare for a large part of the world for a long time.

Mujica’s example reminded me of a missionary couple I met a few months ago. Chris and Donna Mooney have served in Guatemala for the past 14 years, and live in accommodations no better than their neighbors, which means concrete floors and tin roofs. For the first two years they were there, they lived without electricity or running water.

One of my best friends growing up was the son of missionaries, who spent about three years in Zimbabwe. They had electricity for four hours a day. It was certainly a step down, maybe several steps down, from their quality of life in the United States It’s one thing to live that way out of necessity. It’s another to choose it when you could live comfortably in the First World.

It’s hard for me to imagine turning down a life of luxury in the United States for a much lower standard of living in a foreign country. I guess that is just a testament to how driven some people are to reach their goals, and the sacrifices they are willing to make to do so.

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