President George Bush is giving his multimillionaire vice president, Dan Quayle, a big Christmas present — a $46,000 a year pay increase. Bush brought Quayle’s pay to $161,000 a year plus many benefits and perks in the process of signing an executive order implementing legislation raising the salaries of some 10,000 upper level officials and bureaucrats anywhere from $20,000 to $42,000 extra a year.
Isn’t this the same President Bush who opposed decent increases in the minimum wage under which seven million Americans have to live off day to day? While top officials and members of Congress were raising their salaries by 48% between 1981 and 1988, the federal minimum wage was frozen. It is now up to $3.80 per hour. Bush believes that these workers can make it on less than $8,000 a year, but thousands of officials could not make it on $80,000 or $90,000 a year plus generous pensions. So while presiding over a broke government registering quarter of a trillion dollar annual deficits, Bush gives these officials a 22% to 29% pay increase.
The rank and file civil servants will receive a 4.1% pay raise in January, thereby enlarging the salary gap between the mass of civil servants and the bureaucratic oligarchs at the top.
Let’s examine why Congress and Mr. Bush are giving these too officials such large pay raises. One argument is that they can’t live on $80,000 or $90,000 a year. Well, if they cannot make it on an income that is in the top 1, 2 or 3 percent in the nation, perhaps Mr. Bush should declare a national economic emergency for other Americans who are trying to make it on much, much less.
Another argument is that these officials have done such a creditable job overall that they deserve a raise. Are they talking about the HUD and S&L scandals, the Pentagon procurement disasters both financially and technologically, the indifference to peoples’ needs and imprudent management of large government service programs, the willful nonenforcement of laws relating to corporate lawlessness and crimes, the generally low productivity and the unwillingness of these top bureaucrats and officials to just say no against the abuses they see in government or under their legal jurisdiction? Are they speaking of the way these officials turn against or turn their back on the few conscientious stalwarts or whistleblowers among them?
A third argument is that higher salaries are necessary to retain or recruit quality people into government service. There is no ancient, medieval or modern evidence that, beyond a decent living standard which they assuredly possess, more money will buy dedication, integrity and commitment. Given the few top government jobs available and the larger number of potentially qualified people in the country for these jobs, a modestly competent recruitment process should net many good people who wish to serve their government IF… if the leaders of this government lead by example and show that government service can accomplish good things in a clean, dedicated environment.
Bush leads by double standard. Demanding cutbacks in many health, safety, education and other programs, urging restraint on American wage earners, he and Congress raise salaries for top officials at levels never before seen or sought in American history.
If you wish to register your opinion on these raises, call the White House comment office at 202-456-1111 or Vice President Quayle’s phone at 202-456-2326.