When the News Isn't Fit to Print ... Blog

Spending Up, Service Down

In Bowling for Dollars, Weekly Rant on 18/12/2009 at 19:49

There has been a lot in the news lately about congressional perks, especially about travel expenses and Pelosi’s new jet. We went online to see if we could find out more. Most of the figures quoted here are from the Congressional Accountability Project, Citizens Against Government Waist, or the National Taxpayers Union. Much of the data is dated, meaning that actual figures are probably higher.

In 1999 the annual salary of a member of Congress is $141,300, plus benefits. Today it is $174,000 plus benefits. Since January 2006, both Congress and the Senate have increased their annual salaries by more than $10,000. No one had to ask you for the regular raises, because most of the increases came in the form of a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. That way congress doesn’t look as though it votes itself a fat pay hike every time Nancy Pelosi needs another boob job.

Here are the salaries:
Speaker/Senate Leader: $223,500
Majority and Minority Leaders: $193,400
House/Senate Members: $174,000.

They also receive a $3,000 a year housing deduction. Senators are paid while they campaign and travel on personal business. In 2005 the Senate repealed the No Work-No Pay Law; Congress still lives by it but they are trying to repeal it.

The incentive to get reelected, as you can see, is high on Capitol Hill, and should be; hidden in the nooks and crannies of virtually every piece of legislation are new perks or improvements on old ones, many of which can be stuffed right in their pocketbooks.

Both the Senate and the House have gymnasiums with swimming pools. Geesh! It took me hours to find that one, and I wouldn’t have, had there not been a staff infection scare at the Senate facility recently. Both houses have restaurants, although I suspect mostly staff use them. Washington is full of fine restaurants and cocktail lounges where legislators can hobnob with the lobbyist friends. They pay themselves for “working” meals.

The average lawbreaker, a-hum, lawmaker, employees between 74 and 95 staffers; New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s latest office expenses report indicated he had 73 people on his payroll over the six-month period that ended March 31, the most recent data available. Senators are allotted around $3.3 million a year for staff, top pay $169,459. Senate office expense data is not disclosed as readily as House data, but NTU estimates that combined Senate allowances range from $2 million to under $4 million per office.

Congress and the Senate have a rich history of taking with one hand and giving back with interest with the other. The Ethics Reform Act on 1989 increased Representatives and Senators salaries at different rates. Representatives’ pay increased from $89,500 in 1989, to $125,100 by 1991. Eventually the Senate caught up by foregoing honoraria and hiking their salaries. Now that’s change you can believe in.

Office Expenses:
Senate office expense data is not disclosed as readily as House data, but NTU estimates that combined Senate allowances range from $2 million to under $4 million per office.

Members of Congress who committed felonies before 2007 still receive pensions. In March of 1995 NTU research determined that at least 13 former lawmakers convicted of offenses such as bribery and tax evasion were collecting taxpayer-funded benefits, some doing so while sitting in jail. Other convicted lawmakers, ranging from Dan Rostenkowski (1995) to James Traficant (2003) to Randy “Duke” Cunningham (2005) have joined this list.

After 20 years in congress, a representative draws 80% of his or her highest year’s pay for life. Congressional pension benefits are 2-3 times more generous than what a similarly salaried executive could expect to receive upon retiring from the private sector. I don’t know, can Charlie Rangel scrape by on that?

  1. Wow….do I wish everyone could read this….some people have no idea what goes on in D.C. Many Americans have just been fat, dumb and happy! I think we are starting to wake up…I hope so…thanks again for the efforts

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