MAY 26, 2011
While the nation continues suffering through a financial crisis, federal lawmakers from both political parties remain incredibly generous with tax dollars, doling out millions in bonuses to members of their staff including those with six-figure salaries.Considering that unemployment is at an all-time high and the federal budget is in desperate need of slashing, this is the last thing Americans need to hear. The bonuses, distributed my members of Congress, ranged from $2,000 to about $5,000 and totaled more than $21 million. The money was distributed shortly after the federal government finished the year with a $1.3-trillion budget deficit. The data, which can be viewed here, was compiled by aWashington D.C. nonprofit dedicated to tracking congressional salaries.The bonuses came out of the public funds that each member of the U.S. House gets for office expenses and salaries. Any unspent money goes back to the government, or in most cases, to pad staffers’ salaries. The worst offender in 2010 was Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, a Republican who represented east-central Florida before retiring last year. She paid out more than $200,000 in bonuses, according to the database.Nearly one in 10 House members paid at least $100,000 in staff bonuses in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the compiled stats. Almost half of the lawmakers fromCalifornia, the state with the largest House delegation, gave their staff bonuses including five who generously distributed at least six figures.In a local newspaper report several members of California’s delegation explained that bonuses are essential to compete with the private sector. One Democrat from San Josepointed out that “recruiting quality staff for quality constituent services is difficult enough given limited resources.” Another, who paid an average $5,000 bonus, says it’s a “modest financial recognition.”Perhaps it wouldn’t seem so modest if the money came out of the legislators’ pockets. Not surprisingly, no one cared to comment on the bonuses that went to congressional staffers who make six-figure salaries.
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