Something Feral

Digging up the flower-beds.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Public employees, or privileged aristocracy?

And yet, some people continue to ask why I wrote-in "Ron Paul" for President:
U.S. Reps. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) and Ron Paul (R-TX) announced yesterday they will continue their bipartisan efforts to block an automatic pay raise for Congress, and have introduced legislation to block the nearly $4,700 raise scheduled to take effect next year.

Paul, whose congressional district includes parts of Fort Bend County and much of Cinco Ranch, said turning down the raise would demonstrate a commitment to fiscal responsibility...

The new legislation, H.R. 156, introduced yesterday has already garnered 57 co-sponsors, including another Katy-area congressman, Republican Michael McCaul.

In 1989, Congress passed a law that provides lawmakers with an automatic pay raise every January unless they vote specifically to reject the raise.
Wow, a guaranteed salary increase every year sounds fantastic, but how much are they making now?
As of January 1, 2008, the annual salary of each Representative is $169,300. The Speaker of the House and the Majority and Minority Leaders earn more. The Speaker earned $212,100 during the 109th Congress (January 4, 2005-January 3, 2007) while the party leaders earned $183,500 (the same as Senate leaders).

A cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it. Congress sets members' salaries; however, the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits a change in salary (but not COLA) from taking effect until after the next general election. Representatives are eligible for lifetime benefits after serving for five years, including a pension, health benefits, and social security benefits.
Now, supposing that Congress performed its Constitutionally-mandated duties for the entirety of its time in-session, a prevailing wage would not be an objectionable thing, in my opinion. However, not only does Congress largely fail at its job, it does so under the assumption that it alone can fool all the people all the time. Unfortunately for them, that just ain't so:
Only 11% of voters give Congress good or excellent ratings, while 54% say the legislature is doing a poor job. Though low, the latest numbers are a slight improvement from December, when just nine percent (9%) gave Congress good or excellent ratings.

Additionally, just 11% say Congress has passed any legislation to improve life in the United States recently, down from 13% last month. Most (59%) take the opposite view. However, another 30% are undecided at this point.

The number of voters who believe members of Congress are corrupt also has increased. While 36% of voters say most members of Congress are corrupt, 41% disagree. Last month, those numbers were 34% and 39% respectively.
As Representative Mitchell put it, the situation (and specifically, the raise) is "unconscionable". Now, if I didn't believe that the majority of the Congress elected to have their consciences surgically-removed years ago, we might have some sort of ethical leverage against them. Instead, they act with the foresight and cunning of a migrating wildebeest-herd, and even though odd member may be savagely disemboweled by angry constituents from time to time, the majority lives to spend another day on the Beltway's lush savannah in a quasi-conscious stupor.

I do not expect the bill to succeed, as Congress has little reason to halt spending for any reason. Even the massive outcry against the first $700 billion bail-out was largely ignored, and the incumbency-rate has not suffered for it, despite the then-imminent election.

Ordinarily, I'd propose a more advanced solution at this point, but it seems that with the frenzy regarding a new "New Deal" from the Obama administration, we are long past the point of graceful recovery. Instead, I propose that one cut their consumption of taxed goods and services as much as possible, substitute goods that may be bought in-state for ones that may be purchased over the Internet without taxation, or barter. Grow a "resistance garden", as is often suggested at the Survival Podcast.

We don't need them, and I think it's about time we showed them the truth of it.


MikeT said...

Personally, I think the law should establish a concept of "timecard fraud" for Congress. If you spend most of your time fighting for interests unrelated to your district, your constituents should be able to file a petition with some real weight behind it to get a US Attorney to charge the congressman with wasting government time and money.

Elusive Wapiti said...

The pay is one thing. The retirement is another. What a racket.

Something Feral said...

I would like to see some sort of auditing process for the actual work done versus pay-rate. A low salary with a maximum of two weeks' vacation per year might be a good place to start.

As for the retirement, it's outrageous. Considering the incumbency rate, if you get elected and promptly do nothing except work to get removed from office, it is likely that you be vested (five years) by the time an opponent unseats you. Given that the public does this poorly on a general knowledge exam in civics, it is unlikely that even one in three could name their representative.

SellCivilizationShort said...

Somewhere there is an alternate universe where Ron Paul was elected president.

Unfortunately we're in this universe.