JANUARY 10, 2008
Members of Congress are lucky their salary isn’t tied to their performance, which is why they got their second substantial raise in just six months despite historically low approval ratings.
Amid a series of bipartisan legal scandals and corruption probes, which have inevitably diminished confidence among the people they serve, the nation’s lawmakers have once again increased their pay. According to the Federal Register, members of Congress will get a $4,000 annual raise this year.
In June, House lawmakers quietly voted to give themselves a hefty pay raise even though their collective bosses, the American people, had just given them dismal job performance evaluations. The salary increase came on the heels of a national Gallup poll that revealed the nation’s confidence in Congress has never been worst.
The poll’s 14% confidence rating of the nation’s federal lawmaking bodies was actually the lowest of the 16 institutions tested in the survey. It also ranked among one of the all-time lowest confidence ratings for any institution tested in the last three decades. Congress’ highest rating of 40% came during the Watergate era in the 1970s and again in 1986.
A series of scandals and corruption probes as well as widespread allegations of unethical behavior inspired the shamefully low ranking. Highlights include a Republican California Congressman (Randy Duke Cunningham) serving eight years in prison for taking more than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors, a Republican Ohio Congressman (Bob Ney) jailed for taking bribes in the mega corruption scheme involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and an Ohio Democrat (James Traficant) sentenced to eight years for racketeering and accepting bribes.
The icing on the corruption cake was a nine-term Congressman (William Jefferson) federally indicted for accepting hefty bribes over the years. The Louisiana Democrat was actually caught in the act by federal agents who video taped him accepting a bag full of cash. They later found $90,000 of the money—wrapped in foil—stashed in the freezer of his home.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t help matters when she secretly inserted a last-minute provision into a multi billion-dollar redevelopment bill that benefited her husband financially and neither did her highly publicized, taxpayer-financed lavish jet to ferry her and her entourage from coast-to-coast.
Pelosi’s California pal in the Senate, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, was forced to resign as chair of a powerful military construction committee after she was exposed for abusing her position to award her rich husband’s companies billions of dollars in government contracts.
Most Americans would probably never even think of a pay increase under these circumstances, yet the lawmakers they elected to serve them got two in the last six months.
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