Compensation Hypocrisy

I’m betting that this story will make you angry:

A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. “This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.”

However, at 2.8 percent, the automatic raise that lawmakers receive is only half as large as the 2009 cost of living adjustment of Social Security recipients.

Still, Steve Ellis, vice president of the budget watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Congress should have taken the rare step of freezing its pay, as lawmakers did in 2000.

“Look at the way the economy is and how most people aren’t counting on a holiday bonus or a pay raise — they’re just happy to have gainful employment,” said Ellis. “But you have the lawmakers who are set up and ready to get their next installment of a pay raise and go happily along their way.”

And why shouldn’t it? Anticipated Keynesian spending sprees are being cited as the excuse for allowing the budget deficit to reach astronomical levels, but even before Congress decided to prostrate itself before the false god of Keynesianism, the budget deficit reached embarrassingly large levels–aided, of course, by the irresponsible and rampant use of earmarks to boost re-election levels at the expense of fiscal scrupulousness. Yes, I know that both parties were culpable here and yes, I know that earmarks don’t make up a majority of federal spending. The practice is still irresponsible and those who engage in it should not now reward themselves with a pay raise.

President Bush should veto this monstrosity, though now that he has agreed to reverse himself and use TARP funds to bail out the car companies, I doubt he will. At the very least, the next time some CEO gets upbraided for his/her compensation package in relation to his/her company’s performance, he/she should fire right back that Representatives and Senators have no right whatsoever lecturing others on matters of probity.

By the way–and not unrelatedly–a whole host of people are relying on this same bunch of elected officials to manage our economy, our health care system and our education system, thanks largely to the fact that many of these elected officials have assured us that they can do a better job for the citizenry than can private enterprise, the free market and the capitalist system in general.

Feel free to laugh or cry in response.