Our courageous, dedicated and selfless Congress has jumped all over the CEOs for their outlandish perks and bonuses. The Senate and House committees all took the stage to let the home folks know how concerned they were for how our tax dollars are wasted by these captains of industry and finance. (If you don’t watch C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2, you miss the best soap opera going.)
What a heroic stance these humble, elected servants make in our nation’s capital. Always ready to share a sound bite for us voters on the good things they do for us.
I wish I knew more of what they do for us. They do plenty for themselves. On Dec. 12, congressmen and women gave themselves another raise. You read that right. A raise while all around them men and women are losing jobs, homes and no telling what else. The very days they spent shaming the CEOs, they knew that they were going to get a pay raise of $4,700.
By adjourning without any action, their pay raise was automatic. Not only do they not ask us (their employers), but they do everything they can to keep this news from us.
From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily pay) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year.
While the nation is facing the worst financial crisis of our lifetime, the members of Congress give themselves a salary boost. In spite of a $10.6 trillion national debt and a record $438 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2008, Bob Richter of San Antonio writes, “the members of Congress, not the voters who put them there, decided they deserved more.”
Members of Congress get this raise without asking for it. The majority agreed to make the raise automatic unless the constituents found out about it and raised a stink. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for this. The congressmen and women may disagree with each other over what to name a new parking lot, how to hide pork or define a lobbyist—but they agree without a blush when it comes to a salary bounce.
Janet Borg wrote to the Dallas Morning News her thoughts on the matter: “Their oversight on this financial crisis is a fiasco. … These people have the gall to vote themselves a raise in these economic times. None of them has the backbone to cancel this raise.”
All is not lost. Jim Matheson, a Utah congressman, says he has joined forces with the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste to protest this automatic congressional pay raise. Democrat Matheson said, “The notion that Congress should be having an automatic pay raise without even a vote just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Tom Schantz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress “ought to step away from the spiked eggnog” and urge an emergency vote against the raise. Schantz went on to say, “Members of Congress have the only job in the country whose occupants can set their own salary without regard to performance, profit, or economic climate.”
I think Brother Schantz and his fight against government waste should get a raise and enlighten us about our West Texas congressmen.
Individual members of congress are free to refuse their pay increases, and some choose to do so. Anyone know if Congressman Mike Conaway refused the increase? He doesn’t mention it on his Web site. His quality of recent disclosure has been 100 percent nil. Mr. Conaway (according to Open Secrets) has a net worth from $3.4 to $8.7 million. Does someone with such resources really need a raise? How would he vote if there was an emergency vote against the raise?
If nothing else, this pay raise shows just how out of touch with reality politicians can become. As we tighten our belts, members of Congress will pocket another bonus of our tax dollars.
Britt Towery is a retired missionary to Asia. He blogs at www.britt-towery.blogspot.com/ and www.towerytales.blogspot.com/.