The U.S. Congress has done it again.
On Friday the House of Representatives voted to reject a long overdue end to the two-year old federal pay freeze. In effect, Congress is punishing federal civil servants for serving the public.
It should be evident by now that federal employees have been castigated too much, for too long, by a Do-Nothing Congress which prides itself on a conspicuous record of legislative failure and absence of national leadership.
Now it's time for members of Congress to look inward and endure some self-sacrifice by having their own individual pay and operating expenses cut in half and capped (tied to inflation). Congress deserves a dramatic pay cut for the following three reasons:
1) Unequivocal Record of Failure
In short, Congress is a badly broken legislative body plagued by partisan paralysis and political self-interest. This has sadly resulted in:
Is it any wonder that a recent public opinion poll ranked "cockroaches" and "colonoscopies" as having a higher approval rating than the U.S. Congress – seriously!
Moreover, a national Gallup poll showed that public approval of Congress recently tied a near 40-year low of about 10% -- the lowest in the history of Gallup polling.
Yet taxpayers keep funding exorbitant Congressional salaries and hefty annual operating expenses despite an unequivocal record of failure. It's almost as if taxpayers are giving their money away.
2) Dereliction of Duty
As the government sequester now appears unavoidable it is imperative for Congress to likewise be parsimonious. How dare Congress risk causing widespread furloughs of federal employees in addition to the ongoing pay freeze -- which is actually a pay cut since it does not account for basic annual cost of living increases.
Further, by triggering sequestration Congress will intentionally cause serious and needless harm to a fragile U.S. economy still emerging from the Great Recession.
Yet rather than do its job, this cowardly Congress has decided to skip town for an extended vacation. Congress has gone AWOL at the very time bi-partisan legislative action is most needed to avoid going over the so-called Fiscal Cliff. A government-wide sequester becomes effective on March 1 and, frankly, Congress doesn't seem to give a damn, as the Washington Post reports.
This arguably represents an unprecedented dereliction of duty by Congress. Shame on them!
3) Exorbitant Salaries & Expenses
Hard working taxpayers should not have to fund about $1.2 million in individual salaries and political perks for members of Congress and thousands of staffers.
Today, most members of our national legislature earn about $174,000 per year (some get paid more for holding party leadership positions). Astoundingly, that base salary alone (minus operating costs) is triple the median household income, which has hovered around $50,000 since 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Something here just doesn’t add up.
Additionally, Congressional staff can be paid up to nearly the same salary as the members for whom they work, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS). Each member of Congress receives a “Members Representational Allowance” (MRA) of close to one million dollars in addition to their base pay.
Thus, in effect, members of Congress are being paid about $1,200,000 each for not doing their jobs -- at the expense of middle class America and the poor. This is a political tragedy and disgrace to America's democractic form of government. Most members of Congress are already rich even without their pay and perks.
Another costly and antiquated Congressional perk is the “Franking” priviledge which "allows Members of Congress to transmit mail matter under their signature without postage,” according to CRS. This is wasteful spending in today's high-tech online, digital and mobile world.
Therefore, the sky high operating budgets of Congressional offices and staff, the MRA, should likewise be cut in half and capped to an inflationary index. Half a million dollars annually should be more than enough for taxpayers to fund the individual operating expenses of Congressmen and women who have been derelict in their duties.
An impotent Congress that barely produces any substantive results -- while holding the economy hostage for partisan political purposes -- does not need up to 20 staff members each with multiple offices in Washington as well as their home districts. Some might even argue that a 50% pay cut isn't nearly enough.
Finally, Congress needs to stop making scapegoats of the federal workforce to divert attention from its own failings. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said in a statement after Friday's vote to maintain the pay freeze on feds:
“261 House members voted to deny a pay raise [half of 1%] to more than 2 million federal employees, whose salaries have been frozen since January 2010. This vote sends an extremely insulting and hostile message…we don’t value the work that you do, and we think you should continue to be picked on because we oppose the services you provide to the American people.”
It’s high time for the numerous narcissistic members of Congress to take a long look in the mirror. Citizens across this great nation are disgusted by what they see taking place on Capitol Hill, and with good reason.
Enough is enough already!
* Also check out:
Federal Salary: It's About Principles, Not Pay
* NOTE: All views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only.