The Los Angeles Times recently noted that the good ol boys in the U.S. Senate have courageously agreed to accept their fifth pay raise in five years.
It was observed that it takes real courage in a time of war and rising budget deficits to boost a senators salary by 15 percent or $21,000 over the period. And all of this on no proof at all that the senators productivity has shown even slight improvement.
Only 100 men and women are up to the task of being a senator. They have to work maybe from Tuesday through Thursday, meet with staff, talk to the nosy media and irksome constituents, sit through some committee meetings and put up with numerous recesses.
After that heavy work load, they are expected to get by on a mere $158,000 a year, excluding personal wealth, free trips, speech honorariums and health care and retirement benefits. Its a tough job, but someone has to do it.
The senators have arranged a very neat method, so they can appear noble and self-sacrificing while pocketing this big wad of greenbacks.
A 4.1 percent cost-of-living increase for a majority of federal workers is included in the 2004 budgets for the Transportation and Treasury departments. Under a convoluted and complex formula, when this bill passes, it automatically triggers congressional pay raises, unless the Senate votes to exempt itself.
That way each senator can truthfully say that she or he did not vote for their own pay raise. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, wants us to accept his preposterous justification without question. This is an increase thats required by law, Stevens said, without even a trace of a smirk.
One senator deserves great credit for being the only member of the club to say no to more pay. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., gives all his raises back to the Treasury. Feingold proposed exempting the Senate on this one. His resolution was tabled with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voting against him and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting.
The Times mused: How long do you think national health care reform would take ifwithout needing a vote, mind youwe rescinded all health care coverage for members of Congress until they forged a realistic solution for fellow citizens? What if we just left those expensive suits high and dry with no health insurance like some estimated 40 million Americans? Then we could talk about raises.