Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Oh, Thank You Congress. How Nice of You to Give Yourself a Pay Freeze.
I've been thinking about Congressional pay for a couple of months. I just haven't really gotten around to it. See, earlier this year the House voted to freeze its pay for 2010. (But lawmakers still get a raise this year.) You know, because it's hard for everyone.
This is significant because Congress has vote in a pay freeze. It sounds noble, but it's really not. Eight years ago, Congress decided that it didn't want to have to vote itself pay raises. It looks bad when you vote to raise your own pay each year. So, instead, Congress passed a law giving its members an automatic yearly raise of 3%. That way it just sort of happens, and constituents don't think about it.
Naturally, there were some (but relatively few) lawmakers who opposed the automatic pay increases back in the day. And there are some who still do. Representing Utah, Jim Matheson has opposed the automatic pay increase since the beginning. And almost every year he introduces legislation that would require Congress to go back to actively voting on their pay raises rather than passively letting them happen. As you might guess, every year it fails. And each year Matheson gives his automatic raise to charity.
This really is something we should pay attention to. Our lawmakers should be forced to vote on pay raises each year, rather than get them automatically. That way constituents have a chance to write their lawmakers and tell them "no" -- something that is especially necessary in times of economic trouble.