Want a raise? Don't beg to your boss. Just vote yourself one. That's what the United States Congress did in 2004. "For the fifth year in a row, lawmakers voted not to reject their automatic "cost of living" raise that will increase the annual salary of members by $3,400 to a total of $158,103 per year."
During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin considered proposing that elected government officials not be paid for their service. Other Founding Fathers, however, decided otherwise.
From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year - a significant amount of money in 1815, considering that those who were working for "wages" (as opposed to farmers and tradesmen) were knocking down a whopping 50¢ per day! Members began receiving a larger annual salary in 1855, when they were paid $3,000 per year. The current salary (2009) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year. The Majority and Minority Leaders of the House and Senate are paid $193,400 each. And the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is paid $223,500. Are we getting our moneys worth? Oh, and let's not forget the $120,000 in jet fuel that Pelosi burns up every weekend in that 200 seat Boeing 757 aircraft for a round-trip from D.C. to California at taxpayer expense! If the private sector (Big 3 Auto CEOs) flies in private jets to meetings called by the ruling party in Congress, it's a big waste of taxpayers money. If a Democrat flies in a taxpayer funded private jet on government business, it's OK. If the country is having hard economic times, you certainly couldn't tell it by looking at how our government is managing our tax dollars!
Here's what I see as a few problems in our system:
1. Our laws are made by lawyers rather than people with common sense. This is the equivalent of having the fox guard the hen house. Does anybody still wonder why our laws have become so complex and bifurcated? Special interest groups, PACs, Labor Unions, and essentially anybody else with lobbyists on Capitol Hill goes to the head of the line, while the majority of the citizenry suffers in silence. We have the best politicians money can buy.
2. Those who make our laws are overcompensated for what little they do for us - they're too busy doing for themselves. And they get to approve their own pay raises! Wouldn't we all like to have a job like that? "Public service" means serving the public, not servicing them!
3. Members of Congress are entitled to a retirement after only 5 years of participation (I refuse to use the word "service" to describe what they do). There are about a half-dozen different retirement schemes for them, so they can milk us for as much as possible (source: 2007 Congressional Research Service Report). They also have full medical coverage, and a staff and office plus other expenses for which we pay.
4. The worst part is that "we the people" keep re-electing the same lazy, corrupt, lying bastards over and over again!
What's the solution? There is no solution so long as #4, above, continues unchecked. Should that ever be corrected then things like term limits, a salary cap at around $50,000 with a very modest local housing allowance become more possible (or, better yet, government supplied quarters on a military installation such as Bolling AFB, Andrews AFB, or Fort George Mead, all within reasonable commuting distance of downtown D.C.). Lawyers should have minimal representation in Congress, comprising no more than 1/3 of the total makeup of Congress, thus insuring that our laws are less likely to be intellectualized to the point of ineffectiveness in the real world.
I just think "we the people" are getting ripped off to the maximum extent possible by professional politicians, and thought I'd share these "tip of the iceberg" thoughts with you.
I could be ... nah, no way!