In The Midst of Economic Crisis...Congress Gives Themselves a Raise
By Dave Gibson on (Dec 29, 08)

Just before leaving for the Christmas holiday, Congress voted themselves another pay raise. The $4,700 increase in pay, represents an additional $2.5 million in debt being placed on the already incredibly burdened taxpayers. This latest increase also represents the eighth time in the last ten years that Congress has chosen to raise their own salary…

Under the increase, the average member of the House and Senate will make $169,300 a year, while those in leadership positions make more. Perhaps, the most vocal critic of executive salaries, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes an annual salary of $217,400. The minority leaders of both the House and Senate make $188,100.

This latest display of hypocrisy and lack of regard for the American taxpayers, did not go unnoticed by many of those facing a rather bleak financial future.

Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League, told reporters: “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. 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.”

While the rank of and file members of Congress will now enjoy a hefty yearly salary of $169,300, in addition to their many perks (subsidized meals in private dining rooms, an annual $10,000 car allowance, as well as a private police force at their service), the following rank and file public servants make much lower salaries:

police officer - $36,150
firefighter - $35,000
elementary school teacher - $32,000
paramedic - $33,000
social worker - $30,000
U.S. Army private (E-2) - $16,229

It would be more than difficult to find anyone who thinks that the job of Congressman is more important than any one of the preceding professions. That is, apparently, unless you ask a member of Congress.

The ruling class simply has no idea what hardships most Americans face upon a daily basis. “We the people” do not have the luxuries of armed security officers, free rides to work, paid staff, free office space, nor free gym memberships. Many working Americans do not even have the most basic of medical insurance plans, while all members of Congress enjoy only the very best healthcare coverage.

Over the last year, Americans have been gouged at the pumps with $4 a gallon gasoline; many have had to drop their health insurance, due to sky-rocketing medical costs; millions have been laid-off; and millions more have lost their homes to foreclosure.

We are now living under an oligarchy. Congress ignored the overwhelming opinion of Americans when we told them no on the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, just as they continue to ignore the fact that the vast majority of Americans object to the ongoing Iraq War, and pour billions of borrowed dollars as well as American lives into that pointless conflict.

Though they have failed to protect this nation’s financial future, and passed legislation which has allowed our manufacturing base to be re-located overseas, they somehow believe they are worthy of a pay raise.

When Congress began, the lawmakers spent most of their time inside their own districts. They actually spent only a few months in Washington. They received a per diem payment of $6 a day (about $75 today), only enough to cover their own expenses. There was no annual salary, members were only paid for the time they were actually in session, a practice which stood until 1855. They were truly citizen-politicians. That is exactly the vision which the founding fathers had for our legislative branch of government.

Here in Virginia for instance, our state lawmakers (the General Assembly) are only in session for about three months a year. They return to the capital for “special sessions,” when warranted and receive very little monetary compensation (about $18,000 a year for a State Senator). They spend the majority of their time working and living inside the districts they represent. There are of course a number of lawyers, but there are also software engineers, funeral directors, retired military, even a barber (Del. Algie Howell, D-Norfolk). They are in short, folks. No full time politicians.

Our Congress has completely lost touch with the people whom they claim to represent. They have become out-of-step with reality. What other explanation could there be for people who believe that families can survive on $6.55 an hour (the current minimum wage)?

By Dave Gibson on Dec 29, 08
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