It must be nice to be a congressman. Imagine this. Every year you get a raise unless, get this, unless you and your fellow employees vote to not get the raise! Great work if you can get it.
Well, this year congress opted to…well…not vote against the raise! This, of course, saves some congressman from being the one to propose pay raise legislation, especially at such a time when mainstream America is wondering if they will have a job next year. By simply not voting against a raise, there’s no one to blame.
This year, Representative Harry Mitchell drafted legislation to deny the pay raise. Despite over thirty sponsors, according to TheHill.com, the legislation never made it out of committee.
The purpose of paying congressmen and women is to negate the influence of outside sources of income. By providing financial independence it is hoped that our legislators will remain honest. Yeah, that works.
Indeed, the principle is sound. Elected officials often leave lucrative professions while they are in chambers, and adequate compensation may just be a way to provide incentive.
Still, it’s galling that income for millions of Americans has gone down, bonuses and raises have been denied, and for about half a million last year, jobs have been lost. In the meantime, our legislators get a raise.
What happened to the concept of merit pay? Does our congress merit a 2.8% automatic pay raise? After all, this is about half of the the cost of living adjustment for social security. Perhaps approving handouts for incompetent and corrupt bankers without providing oversite is an underated and especially exhausting job.
Or are there other alternatives? If the congressional pay raise is automatic, then why not base it on other numbers that are more meaningful than an arbitrary 2.8% figure? For instance, we can base congressional salaries on the national median real income. For the sake of isolating outliers, we can exclude the top ten percent of earners from the algorythm. That way, if your average pay goes down, so does your representative’s in congress. Maybe this will create the incentive that seems to be lacking in our modern legislature.
Or how about this. Let’s leave the pay raise up for referendum at every election. After all, our politicians are supposed to work for us, they are our representatives. Shouldn’t “we the bosses” have some say as to how much compensation they receive just as my boss makes that determination for me?
So what would it take for the congress to pass such legislation?