By Michael A. Matteo
On Wed. February 4, 2009 President Obama imposed a $500,000 cap on senior executive salaries of financial institutions that were receiving bailout money from the federal government. The president felt like it was time to initiate a plan that would deal with the issue of “executives being rewarded for failure.” I agree with the president! It is the height of insanity for a company that has been obviously mismanaged to the point of bankruptcy to give bonuses, pay hikes or other benefits to those same executives whose inability to manage their businesses effectively forced them to beg the federal government for funds to prevent them from closing their doors.
Given this logic shouldn’t the same set of circumstances apply to the Congress of the United States who just received an automatic 10% pay increase on January 4th? Isn’t this the same institution, combined with the president, who has gotten our nation 5 trillion in debt? Isn’t this the same institution that writes laws and has committees that were supposed to oversee the banking and mortgage industries? If we are to use the same logic that President Obama is using to cap CEO salaries shouldn’t we apply the same logic to congressional salaries and perks?
In 1789 Congressional representatives were paid a total of $6 per day, this increased to $8 per day in 1825. In the first 36 years of our fledgling nation congressional pay increased by a total of 30% even though the country was growing in size and stature as a world leader. In 1985 the annual salary of a congressperson was $75,100. As of January 4th, 2009 each congressperson is paid $174,000. It is the 10th pay hike that congressional representatives have received since 1998. Between 1985 and 2009 Congress increased its pay by approximately 130% in that 24-year span.
When our nation first became a nation, every congressman was paid the same amount of money. At present, majority/minority leaders and Pro tempore are given additional stipends for those jobs. For example, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi will receive a total of $223,500 as compensation in 2009 in addition to other perks that congressional representative receive that include: pension plans that are 2 to 3 times more generous than the average private sector pension plan, lifetime health insurance at a fraction of what the average American pays for a lot less coverage, limousines, special parking privileges, the ability to travel first class unless you have a taxpayer paid private jet like Nancy Pelosi. Congressional representative can also add to their personal incomes by adding, in one night, sums greater than the annual salary of many Americans by accepting speaking engagements.
During the height of the Great Depression Congress took a 10% paycut in 1932 and an additional pay-cut of 5.5% in 1933. I think most Americans would be in favor of that or perhaps rolling back their salaries to the original Congress. I think $6 per day would be fair compensation for what these representatives have done for our nation.
At a time when most Americans are suffering from the depth of what has been characterized as the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression the only Americans who don’t seem to be hurt at all are those in government, especially Congress. As a matter of fact, they appear to be flourishing.
America, MY AMERICA, is being run into the ground by greedy bureaucrats whose idea of “saving” America is to confiscate taxpayer dollars, create a climate of fear over situations they helped create and then “come to the rescue” with pork filled legislation that puts future generations in debt. If we are going to penalize corporate CEO’s, who are paid with government funds, shouldn’t we do the same to the CEO’s of our nation (namely Congress) who are also receiving large checks from our government?
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books. E-mail him at: email@example.com.