By J. D. Longstreet
If not the worst Congress this nation has ever had, certainly the current Congress ranks among the top two worst congresses in the history of the US. No matter. They are scheduled for an automatic pay raise next month. For an excellent article on this topic we recommend you read: “Congress Should Reject $4,700 Pay Raise, Taxpayers' and Seniors’ Groups Say” . You’ll find it by CLICKING HERE .
With this raise the Members of Congress will be jumping from $169, 300.00 per year to $174,000.00 dollars per year. That’s just their salary. It doesn’t include all the other little goodies they get over and above the loot in their pay envelopes.
You know, if I were a member of this Congress, I’d be ashamed to take my regular pay let alone stick my hand out for an additional $4,700.00! With an approval rating of 19 or 20% they must surely be nearing a record for disapproval ratings of any modern Congress.
Back in July of this year according to Gallop polls Congress did, in fact, set a records, of sorts, with a 14% approval rating. That was the lowest congressional job approval rating in the 34-year Gallup Poll history of asking the question. For details Click Here.
Now they want a raise? Yes, they do. And… they’ll get it thanks to a 1989 amendment allowing for automatic raises… unless they vote, specifically, reject the raise.
So, who, exactly decides how much Congress is paid? CONGRESS! Oh, yes! They tell themselves how much they are to be paid. It’s the law! Article One Section Six of the US Constitution states the following: Section 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. Dang! How sweet is THAT!
Up until 1969 Congress had to pass a law every time they wanted a pay raise. Well, it wasn’t a LAW, exactly. It was a piece of legislation…. or law… whichever. Whatever they set their salaries at with that piece of legislation… it stayed at that level until ANOTHER piece of legislation was passed to raise the amount again. Each time Congress desired a raise they had to go out, in front of God and everybody, and vote themselves a pay raise. Sort of humbling, don’t you know. The record shows that Congress voted itself 22 pay raises from 1789 through 1968 by passing a single piece of legislation for each pay raise. And… they can STILL do it that way, if they so choose. In fact they did so choose in 1982, 1983, 1989, and again in 1991.
There is another way Congress can raise its pay and that is through a recommendation form something called a Quadrennial Salary Commission. Never heard of them? neither had I. See, what they do is… recommend pay raises for high level federal officials. Guess what? Congress established the commission back in 1967. (How’d you guess?) Then Congress raised its pay three times, in 1969, 1977, and 1987 using this procedure. (Slick, what?)
There is yet ANOTHER way Congress can raise its pay. In 1975 Congress set up something called a comparability increase. It relies on annual adjustments in their pay when those, uh, “adjustments” are compared to pay raises that federal government employees receive. This whole thing is based on a recommendation the President makes to the Congress. The Congress can then either approve it, turn it down, or they can modify it. And… wouldn’t you just know it! Congress used this method to give themselves hefty raises in 1975, 1979, 1984, 1985 and again in 1987.
Then in 1989 comes the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. Sam Hanna, Jr. of the Ouachita Citizen writes the following: “Almost 20 years ago, Congress approved the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. The act called for adopting a formula using changes in private sector wages and salaries per the Employment Cost Index to determine the annual compensation for members of Congress and other high-level federal officials. In laymen's terms, the act provides for an annual pay raise for members of Congress based on a rise (real or not) in salaries earned by people working in the private sector. Or in other words, as Joe Six Pack works harder and harder to hopefully earn more money, Congress gets a pay raise as well.” You can read Mr. Hanna’s entire article by CLICKING HERE .
Remembering that they, the Congress, had the power to accept, modify, or reject any pay raise coming their way, the Congress accepted pay raises under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008. If my math is correct, that is twelve pay raises accepted under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989… with a tip of the hat to the Employment Cost Index, of course.
Let us remember that Congress, as Mr. Hanna points out in his exceptional article, enjoys “some of the best health care coverage and retirement compensation known to man, and those perks are not included in the annual pay check members receive.”
So. As we survey the financial mess our economy finds itself in today, and considering that the Congress must shoulder much, if not most, of the blame for the mess, should Congress even consider raising its own pay? I think not. In fact, I would support requiring them to give at least half of the last two years salaries back to the US Treasury.
If the Congress has any sensitivity, at all, to the financial plight in which the country finds itself today, they will certainly, with no hesitation, refuse to accept ANY raise in pay this coming January. But don’t hold your breath waiting for them to turn down money!
J. D. Longstreet