Worn down by an unnecessary war in the Middle East, presidential assaults on civil liberties, tax cuts for the rich, stratospheric medical costs, government-sponsored torture and innumerable other complaints about Washington politics, Crabby Old Lady joined millions of her fellow citizens in cautiously applauding the new Democratic majority in Congress the morning after the 2006 election.
Crabby’s (mild) euphoria was short-lived as it soon became evident that Congress had not changed at all. It continued to rubber-stamp President Bush’s initiatives, and apparently most of the rest of the country is in agreement with Crabby. Congress’s approval rating currently stands at an all-time low of 25 percent [December AP-Ipsos poll].
Now, with a federal budget deficit in numbers unheard of in the history of the world and increasing at a rate of billions of dollars a week, word comes that lawmakers have given themselves a cost-of-living increase for 2008 of $4,100 for the average lawmaker to an annual wage $169,300.
Those who hold higher positions of power, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] for example, get slightly more. Her salary goes from $212,100 last year to $217,400.
Crabby Old Lady doesn’t begrudge Congress its rate of pay, but she gets her knickers in a big-time twist when her representatives give themselves a larger increase than Social Security beneficiaries, both of which are supposed to be based on cost-of-living statistics. Social Security benefits were raised for 2008 by 2.3 percent; Congress gave themselves 2.5 percent.
With the average Social Security benefit at $964.50 in November 2007, the difference doesn’t amount to much: $266 annually at 2.3 percent versus $289 annually at 2.5 percent. Just $23. But it’s the principle that bothers Crabby:
“Rep Jim Matheson, [D-Utah], a leading critic of the COLA process, said in an interview that he’s not proposing that members of Congress never get a pay raise. But he said that, in a time of budget deficits when many people are undergoing economic hardship, ‘at least we ought to have an up-and-down vote on it. The whole process appears so secretive.’”
- Houston Chronicle, 12 January 2008
And Congress wonders why the country hates them so much. If they had given themselves the 2.3 percent increase to match their largest voting bloc, their annual salary would be only $300 lower. Not a bad price, in Crabby’s lights, for Congress to appear as though they have a glimmer of recognition that their constituents are scrabbling to get by. Crabby Old Lady will keep this in mind come the November election.
[At The Edler Storytelling Place today, Lia tells another in her ongoing series of stories on embarrassments and humiliations titled Country Bumpkin.]