April 19th, 2012
By Frank Byronn Glenn -- Congress took care of the problem of voting to give themselves a pay raise
and having the whole country and the news media knowing they did it. It wasn't that they thought it was bad form for them to vote themselves a pay raise, because Lord knows they believed they deserved one. Congressing is hard work - don't you know?
It was just that little gnarly problem of actually "having" to vote themselves a pay raise
and having it be a matter of public record. I mean it's one thing to be a politician and getting a well-deserved raise in pay -- and even benefits. It's another entirely having to run for election against an opponent that might "rail" against excessive pay for Congress people (at least until he/she got to Congress, that is).
So Congress came up with an "slick-willy" strategy in
which they could have their pay raise "cake" -- and eat it, too.
They just passed a pay raise rule for themselves.
They decided to give themselves a pay raise automatically each year without it even having to come up for a vote in either house of Congress. When January each year rolled around -- thump! -- more money in the bank each month. No fuss, no fight, no publicity -- no embarrassment. Just money in the bank!
The interesting thing about it, though,
was that even though Congress was very astute in figuring out a way to feather their own little nests each year without drawing attention to themselves -- it just never occurred to them that if the poor little struggling Congress people were hit so hard by the ever-increasing cost of living that they had to give themselves a mandatory cost of living raise every year -- automatically -- without even a debate or the irritation of a vote -- maybe the working people of America (particularly the ones that go to work every day and put in their eight hours for the hard-earned federal minimum wage) could benefit from getting a little relief from that same ever-increasing cost of living. Naw. Just never occurred to them. They're pretty busy with the business of governing -- making laws and such, you know.
So. From the year 1998 to the year 2010, Congress gave themselves nine (9) automatic pay raises.
In 1998 Congress people made around $138,000 per year, and after raises in 9 of the 10 years of that decade, they were making $174,000 -- an increase of around 36,000 per year -- in just 10 years (I wonder what the Americans who don't even make $36,000 per year thought about that?).
Now -- given how sensitive Congress was to the rising cost of living during that decade
-- I am sure they remembered to give the American working people a little help there, too, don't you?
Uh...well... not so much. All the time George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were in the White House
and the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives -- and for the final two years Bush was in office, from 2006 to 2008, American workers received nothing in the way of an increase in pay from an increase in the federal minimum wage. Not a dime.
The cost of living went up for Congress people --
so they took good care of themselves. Well, to their credit, they skipped their raise in January of 2009, because they thought it just might not look very good if Congress got themselves an automatic pay raise while the rest of the country was getting laid off, out of work, losing their homes, jobs and pensions.
Naw. Probably wouldn't have looked too good.
I mean we were in the middle of a monstrous financial meltdown-- remember? Even to a Congress quite adept at looking the other way. A Congress incredibly adept at finding money for no-bid drugs for Medicare, and Medicare Advantage, the Bush Tax cuts, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- but there was just no money for a minimum wage increase for working Americans, Huh uh... have to watch our p's and q's when it comes to the taxpayers money. I mean, deficits, and everything.
So my proposal is simple. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Congress should pass a law that the minimum wage goes up automatically by the same amount of the Social Securty COLA each year --- or by the percentage that the pay of Congress goes up each January -- whichever is more. I mean -- isn't what's good for Congress good for the American working poor. Let's face it. That's what the minimum wage guarantees you. That if you are working and you make minimum wage -- you are guaranteed to be poor! Pretty much no matter how many hours your work or how many jobs you have.
So Congress! How about it? Man up, would you?
Give American workers the same pay increase plan you designed for yourselves. Even keep it automatic -- so you don't have to vote on it -- and America worker know they can count on it. Working people don't like uncertainty either -- just like the "job creators"!