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Candidates aren't talking about this issue

By By Sid Salter/ syndicated columnist
Sept. 4, 2002
Next time a congressional candidate tries to hand you a card and ask for your vote, ask them if they knew about the pay raises. You won't see this issue aired in the political TV commercials this fall.
It's The Case of the Automatic Pay Raise. Come Nov. 5, either U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering or U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows will be chosen as the "new" congressman from the "new 3rd District. Congressmen Roger Wicker, Bennie Thompson and Gene Taylor all appear headed for cakewalk re-election bids against political unknowns. Ditto for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
Yet whoever the winners in November, congressional delegation jobs will come with a $5,000 pay raise in FY2003 to raise the total to $155,000 per year. The FY2003 congressional pay raise will mark the fourth consecutive year that Congress has received a pay raise.
Automatic pay raises
Congress in 1989 authorized an automatic "cost of living" pay increase each year unless there is a specific vote to cancel the raise. For the last four years regardless which party controlled the House and Senate there has been no such vote.
The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste blasted the automatic pay raise in light of the nation's current economic woes and the increased government spending made necessary by the Sept. 11 atrocities.
The country faces a $157 billion deficit in this year alone. The national debt looms at $6.2 trillion. Schatz rails against the pay hike.
The CCAGW points out that over the last five years, members of Congress have given themselves $13,300 per year in pay raises, which is more than minimum wage workers earn during an entire year of full-time work.
Other congressional perks cited by the group include: free patient care at certain hospitals; a special $3,000 tax deduction; frequent flyer miles from government travel; free meals and vacations from lobbyists and business groups; access to first-class gyms and tennis courts; taxpayer-subsidized life and health insurance and a special pension program.
Over the next several days, the country will revisit the Sept. 11 attacks. In the wake of those attacks, one has to question the propriety of senators and congressmen taking a pay raise no matter how large or small and no matter the consequences.
What about the war effort? What about the tremendous losses on Wall Street and the thousands of investors and employees who lost their savings in the crash of the Enrons, WorldComs and Adelphias of the American economy?
Congress is behind on the budget, behind on confirming presidential nominees to the courts and other import posts and behind doing anything to fix the U.S. Postal Service or Amtrak.
In the private sector, raises are hard to come by when the company is losing money and work isn't being completed on schedule. Why in the world should that not be the case in Congress?