Congressional Raises and Budget Games

Attached here is the ”EXECUTIVE ORDER: ADJUSTMENTS OF CERTAIN RATES OF PAY” signed by President Obama on Friday. The Order ends the 2010 federal employees’ pay freeze, at which time the White House estimated that a salary freeze would save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 and approximately $28 billion over the next five years. This adjustment gives some federal workers a raise that will amount to approximately 1/2 of 1%. There is no doubt that all employees should not be lumped into the same category; it’s certain that there are federal employees who are more than worthy of raises or, at the very least, having their salaries unfrozen — but included in the raise are our congressional representatives. Um, Congress? Really? 

If ever there were a group that should not fall under the same guidelines for salary increases it’s the members of Congress. Both the House and Senate will receive an increase from $174,000 to 174,900; that’s not a huge bump. Congressional leaders will also receive an increase:

Bt what message does this send? Is now the time?

In the real world employees receive salary increases based on available revenues and job performance. One more day remains in 2012 and the nation still faces alarming financial uncertainty brought on by congressional inaction. With the unresolved fiscal cliff and debt ceiling issues looming, increasing congressional salaries sends a clear message that congress is rewarded no matter how much or little they accomplish. Patty Murray (D-WA), who will be on the powerful and influential Senate budget committee, noted that the fiscal cliff represents more of a concern for the GOP than it does for Democrats because coming close to falling off the cliff will force Republicans to actually negotiate and compromise with the President Obama rather than face the possibility that it will appear that only Democrats are willing to take action to avoid falling over. Let’s face it: that hasn’t been the case — the negotiators are not concerned about the impressions and views the majority of taxpayers hold.

Where’s the proof of productivity? The 112th Congress is on track to become the most unproductive Congress since the 1940s — not exactly a record to be proud of. Certainly there were some bills passed such as renaming buildings and extending existing laws but that doesn’t exactly bode well for productivity and doing the people’s work. During the first session of the 112th Congress, 80 bills were passed; that is far fewer than during any other session since year-end statistics were first recorded in 1947. Congress continued along that vein of least-productive year in modern history once the second session resumed; more renamed buildings amidst plenty of infighting.

Here is a petition: ’Freeze Congress Pay, Benefits and Members Representation Allowances’. Maybe it won’t turn into a massive taxpayer revolt but it provides food for thought. It brings forth the idea that raises and expensive benefits for congressional representative should be closely examined, and not tied to salaries and benefits of other federal employees. Perhaps that would provide some motivation to actually get the job done that they were elected to do while simultaneously allowing them to feel the pain of struggle that many middle-class households must currently contend with on a daily basis.

Congress has become more partisan than ever, and the fact that 2012 was an election year meant that even deeper battle lines were drawn. If there are battles about items congress agrees on, such as extending the Payroll Tax Cut, then there should be no expectation that other simple matters will be effectively and efficiently resolved.

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