Congress should not get a pay raise until we, the people, say it should be so. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue, it is an ethical issue.
Right now, the economy is such that workers are not getting very big raises and the cost-of-living has gone up for all of us. As such, Congress, should show some solidarity with the American people and not only refuse a pay raise but should also give up many of the costly perks they take for themselves (taxpayer funded health care, taxpayer funded retirement plan, taxpayer funded travel, etc.) while leaving Joe and Jane Average American to fend for themselves.
The following is a letter penned by Kristina Rasmussen of the National Taxpayer’s Union. Please feel free to copy it and send it to everyone you know.
On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to cosponsor bipartisan legislation (H.R. 5087 or H.R. 6417) that would prevent an automatic pay increase for Members of Congress in 2009. Rank-and-file Members of Congress currently make an annual salary of $169,300 (more than double the median household income of $78,978 for the Washington, D.C. metro area, including wealthy suburbs). This sum doesn’t include taxpayer funds used for lavish pensions, health plans, and generous allowances for travel, staff, and office expenses. In light of mixed economic indicators, Congress should reject an automatic pay hike that would pad a sizeable Congressional compensation package.
How did this auto-pilot pay raise system come about? As explained by Pete Sepp in the NTU Foundation Policy Paper “Congressional Perks: How the Trappings of Office Trap Taxpayers,” it didn’t start out this way:
According to Article I of the U.S. Constitution, compensation paid to Members of Congress “shall be ascertained by law.” The Founding Fathers intended Congress to set its own pay through the appropriations process, on the supposition that Members would be guided by their own sense of honor. In fact, lawmakers lived without a yearly salary up until 1854, having contented themselves prior to that time with a per-diem system that paid a flat rate for each day Congress was in session.
But thanks to a series of post-war measures, culminating in a 1989 “ethics” law, Members of Congress have sought to avoid accountability for salary hikes. Annual pay raises are now tied to the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index:
COLAs [Cost of Living Adjustments] now take effect once the TTHUD bill becomes law, although taxpayers would never be able to identify any language in the bill that appears to authorize these pay grabs. Members of Congress would need to specifically vote on, or insert, language blocking the raise if they do not want the increase to occur.
Taxpayers are thus condemned to fight a bizarre annual battle over a COLA whose existence is only recognized when Congress opts to block it.
Even though Members of Congress received automatic pay increases each year between 2000 and 2006, taxpayers were enthused to see the House reject a pay hike for 2007. Our members strongly believe this action should be repeated in 2008. We’re counting on you to make a stand against automatic Congressional pay increases by cosponsoring H.R. 5087 (or H.R. 6417) and directing the resulting savings toward reducing the deficit.
I know that Congress is going to accept the pay raise even though they don’t deserve it. But we need to be aware that they are doing it and that they are screwing us in the process. We need to put pressure on them to act responsibly.
How can they criticize corporate executives for have golden parachutes when Congress has platinum parachutes?
To read more about H.R. 6417, click the following link:
The last activity on this bill is that it was referred to committee, most likely to let it die.
You can access the original letter on-line here:
Stop Congress’s Automatic Pay Hike
National Taxpayers Union
February 01, 2008