The showdown over the Reagan Salary Grab for top government officials of 51% or a $45,000 raise will reach a climax on February 8th. If both the House and Senate do not vote it down, by then, members of Congress, federal district court judges and top government officials will go to $135,000, plus many benefits, a year. Congressional leaders, higher court judges and Cabinet members will receive substantially more. Three national polls just released a report that over 80% of the American people oppose the Reagan Salary Grab. Their responses express both rage and reason. Giving top officials a 51% raise, after they received a $14,500 raise 23 months ago, widens the gap between the rulers and the ruled who pay their salary to a historic level. Mr. Reagan left his government sinking in red ink, scandal, and critical program cutbacks to find more money to fund Pentagon and other departmental waste, fraud and abuse. This is hardly the time for a permanent bonus.
What also drives people to revulsion is the cool contention by these officials that they can’t make it on $89,500 plus pension, health and life insurance plans and a train-length of perks and freebies. Then how are the rest of Americans expected to make it. How, writes a woman from Alabama, is she expected to make it with $6700 a year on a minimum wage that Reagan and the Congress have frozen since December 1980.
Congress is rapidly mutating beyond satire. Increasingly, its leaders from both parties are ducking the duty of voting. This legislature is setting up Commissions to tell it how to balance the budget, what military bases to close, what salary raises it is to receive — many of which become law if both Houses of Congress do not reject these proposals within a short time period.
At the same time, members of Congress are showering raises, perks, luxurious services and staff on themselves. Do all these taxpayer dollars produce a more productive Congress, closely monitoring the Executive branch, cleaning up the scandalous campaign finance mess, doing its work on time, giving citizens greater rights to challenge governmental and corporate abuses and planning to head off future crises? Just the opposite is the case. Capitol Hill is now Withering Heights.
A Public Citizen report this month found that many dozens of House and Senate members have piled up huge campaign war chests which on retirement they are converting to their own personal income. (Members elected after 1980 cannot do this).
Higher salaries have never resulted in higher quality people at the top of government. Talented Americans are standing in line for Congressional seats, federal judgeships and top Executive branch appointments. The reality is that persons are appointed to such jobs on political grounds (loyalty, ideology, partisanship) and not on the basis of the finest talent. Besides, money never has purchased integrity, commitment and dedication.
What needs to be done America? Just make them vote. Don’t we send these lawmakers to Washington to vote? Well, the Senate is going to vote and will vote the raises down. But the House is where the grease is running, under the control of Speaker Jim Wright and Minority Leader, Bob’ Michel. The deal is to refer the raise to the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, chaired by Cong. Bill Ford, whose members will assure that the bill does not reach the House floor.
So the slogan is Make ‘Em Vote.-For if they do, everyone is predicting they will have to vote it down.
Call your Representative (the local office is listed in your phone book) and ask to receive immediately his or her written statement on the Reagan raise. If you don’t receive a letter in opposition to the salary grab and in support of a roll call vote, consider your Representative part of this bipartisan conspiracy. If Speaker Wright blocks a vote until February 8th, the focus shifts to a Roll ‘Em Back drive on a Discharge Petition that renders Wright and Michel unable to stop a record vote.
Do your part and contact your Representative today. Otherwise, expect a more arrogant and venal Congress, unless you join with others to show them who’s boss.
(Send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to Stop the Salary Grab, P.0. Box 19404, Washington, DC 20036, if you wish a free action kit to mobilize your neighborhood or community.)