FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Congressional Pay Raise Scam

by Ralph Nader

There are times when comparisons matter a lot. Just compare Congress and its self-voted forthcoming salary increase from $150,000 to $155,000 a year with the federal minimum of $5.15 per hour that Congress has frozen for years.

Since 1989, members of Congress have granted themselves a total of $60,500 in raises. This is much more than keeping up with inflation, in addition to their very generous pensions, health and life insurance, housing deduction and assorted perks. The federal minimum wage, by contrast, is lagging severely behind inflation. Had Congress kept the minimum wage at the same purchasing power as it was in 1968, it now would be $7.50 per hour.

Millions of Americans are working today for wages that buy far less livelihood than minimum wage workers bought in 1968. During this time the economy has doubled in real GDP per capita.

The failure of our economy to provide for working families is in part a failure of Congress, the White House and their surrender to business lobbyists whose prices certainly have not stagnated and whose executive compensation has soared.

The moral authority of Congress to govern reflects itself to many citizens by the way the legislators handle their pay. The Congress has been handling it very poorly. Thirty or even twenty years ago, Congressional Committees would hold public hearings and conduct public floor debates on increasing the legislators’ pay. Members of the House and Senate used to have to stand up and vote one way or the other. There was intense talk radio and other media interest in this character examination.

But, being a law unto themselves, Congress changed the rules. No more public hearings. Doing nothing gets them more money. For there is an automatic COLA inserted into a much larger appropriations bill for the Treasury Department. To get a floor debate and a roll call vote requires a proposed amendment and that may not be allowed on the floor by the intricate rules of the House. Nice immunity from the American people who pay those salaries, eh?

Over at the Senate, Senator Russ Feingold (Dem. Wisconsin) has vowed to force a vote up or down on the floor next month. Last year, he lost such an effort, but garnered a total of 33 Senators voting against that year’s pay grab.

The majority in the Senate, including the leadership, Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Trent Lott, not only voted for their salary increase but were downright smug and patronizing toward Feingold. If the lawmakers who are lining their own nest have no fear of a citizen revolt on such a personal issue (and the polls consistently show overwhelming opposition to their regular salary increases by the people), why should Congress be responsive to the peoples’ sensibilities on matters dealing with health insurance, drug prices, money corrupting our elections, burgeoning federal deficits, bloated military budgets and an overbearing foreign policy.

Think of the context for the Pay Raise drive. Our economy is wobbly; unemployment is growing; consumer, corporate and national debts are at all-time records. The Congressionally unfettered corporate crime wave underway for years is eating at jobs, pensions and investor equities. Meanwhile, the ravages of high level greed by the powerbrokers are everywhere.

Yet, Congress is at its annual stealth pay raise maneuver once again.

It is time for the people to teach Congress a lesson. If you focus on your two Senators – calls, letters, e-mails, meetings back home – you’ll have their election-time fingers in the wind blowing in the responsible direction. Be imaginative – ask them whether they want more signatures on the next letter you send; send copies to their opponents and members of the media.

On August 14, 2002, a coalition of national conservative and liberal groups sent a letter to each Senator asking them to oppose the proposed $5,000 Congressional pay raise (almost half the minimum wage for a worker laboring for a full year).

They pointed out that there is no shortage of highly qualified candidates willing to run for Congress at the current salary. Actually, most newly elected members of the House of Representatives receive a substantial salary increase, compared to what they were paid in their former job.

For a copy of the full text and other action-oriented information, access the website www.congressproject.org or call (503) 235 – 8012. The Congressional switchboard for your Senator is (202) 224 – 3121.

 

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail