the congressional pay raise red herring

there’s an argument that comes up often this time of year — especially notable in this time of expensive disasters, costly wars, record-breaking deficits and congressional lobbying scandals. the question is, amidst all of these financial turmoils, why did lawmakers in the republican-led house again vote themselves a pay raise? and why aren’t democrats making an issue of it?

because the reason lawmakers, in general, give themselves pay raises is to keep their pay scales in line with inflation (that’s almost always the foundation of an argument in favor – it’s actually an annual ‘cost of living increase’ that is automatic unless it’s voted down). and each lawmaker represents around 600,000 constituents (not all voters, mind you). if you break it down, however, it means that in a year, each constituent is paying their representative roughly 27.5 cents (165,200/600,000). even if you take all of those ineligible to vote out of the equation, it’s still significantly less than $1 a year.

moreover, democrats would have had to be complicit in this bit of pocket-stuffing in a vote that passed by an overwhelming 392-31. my guess is democrats are wagering the pay raise question is, as it always has been, a non-issue.

certainly there is something to the argument that we’re still not getting our money’s worth, though! And furthermore, the timing of this pay raise is horrible.

nevertheless, i always like to bring this up around congressional pay raise time, because it puts some perspective into the “those money-grubbing bastards” argument. to most of them the congressional salary is a drop in their gold-plated piss buckets. the majority of our lawmakers are extremely wealthy and some are in the habit of contributing a portion (or even all) of their congressional salaries to charity. it takes far more money to run a campaign these days, and $165k is chump change that looks much better if it’s used charitably.

it’s far better to rail upon the shameless lobbying money the representatives make (one lobbyist’s minor contribution can easily dwarf the $3100 raise they just got)… or how about cutting ineligible voting entities (i.e. corporations, unions and lobbies) out of the process? doesn’t anyone else find it ironic that these non-voting goliaths have more influence on our elections than the voters themselves? certainly, the outcome of any election affects businesses; that is not being argued here. The point is that our elections are bought and sold on a market where lobbyists are the stocktraders, legislators (and their votes) are the stock, and corporations, unions and lobbies are the stockholders.

and individual citizens are merely bystanders with little or no influence on the outcome.