Friday, January 02, 2009

Some People Got a Raise Yesterday. But Is It Deserved?

I'm not sure if you caught this story between all the holiday festivities or not, but it's one that everyone needs to see: Despite the lousy economy, Congress gave itself a raise yesterday. Sure, this tends to happen every year, but shouldn't this year have been an exception?
A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. “This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.”

However, at 2.8 percent, the automatic raise that lawmakers receive is only half as large as the 2009 cost of living adjustment of Social Security recipients.

Still, Steve Ellis, vice president of the budget watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Congress should have taken the rare step of freezing its pay, as lawmakers did in 2000.
Agreed. With the type of demands that Congress has been making of CEO's, shouldn't they put their money where their mouths are? And with an incoming president who's talked a lot about "shared sacrifice," shouldn't such things begin at the top?

This has been a problem for a while now, and the system is rigged in Congress' favor:
Rep. Harry Mitchell, a first-term Democrat from Arizona, sponsored legislation earlier this year that would have prevented the automatic pay adjustments from kicking in for members next year. But the bill, which attracted 34 cosponsors, failed to make it out of committee.

“They don’t even go through the front door. They have it set up so that it’s wired so that you actually have to undo the pay raise rather than vote for a pay raise,” Ellis said.

[...]Ellis said that while freezing the pay increase would be a step in the right direction, it would be better to have it set up so that members would have to take action, and vote, for a pay raise and deal with the consequences, rather than get one automatically.

“It is probably never going to be politically popular to raise Congress’s salary,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to find taxpayers saying, ‘Yeah I think I should pay my congressman more’.”
Maybe if they actually deserved it. But we haven't exactly been seeing sterling examples of leadership from Washington for quite some time now.

Anyone else upset about this? Rant away in the comments...

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