Congress Doesn’t Vote, Gets a Pay Raise

Members of Congress are getting a pay raise for 2009. With the economy in dire straits, you’d think members would be afraid to be seen voting themselves a raise. And so they were. But the good news – for Congress – is that if they don’t vote on their pay raise, then they get it. It’s automatic!

Now one might say that members of Congress run a very large enterprise – a federal government that spends $3 trillion a year, and getting larger every day – so it’s not unreasonable for them to get at least as much pay as they do. But FedEx Corp. and other companies are cutting the pay of senior managers. Surely members of Congress would not argue that they have managed the finances of the U.S. government better than the managers at FedEx, Motorola, Eastman Chemical, and other companies have handled their firms’ challenges. If members of Congress had their pay cut when the budget is not balanced, maybe we’d get more fiscal responsibility in Washington.

The Hill newspaper notes that members made $30,000 in 1969, which would be the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $195,000 today. Perhaps members of Congress should not be rewarded for overseeing such a striking erosion in the value of the dollar over just 40 years.