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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Senate Salary Increases

Well, here they go again. They won’t do anything about the massive government deficit, the massive giveaways, bailouts and scandals, but just before midnight Thursday, 53 Senators voted to raise Senate salaries by $23,200 to reach $125,100 a year plus generous benefits, perks and pensions.

Senator Robert Byrd (D-W) gave three reasons for this hike at a time of rising unemployment and poverty. He said the House of Representatives gave themselves that raise in January, claimed he needed more money and there would be a ban on speech fees from special interest groups.

Instead of the Senate pushing to bring down the House salaries, rammed-through the House without permitted amendments, instead of admitting that $101,000 salary plus benefits is quite a nice living wage not experienced by over 99% of working Americans, and instead of banning these speech payolas outright instead of taking the equivalent sum from the taxpayers, Byrd shows a level of sophistry equaled only by his partner in paygrabs, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK).

Knowing that about SGT of the American people oppose any Congressional salary increase, Senators Byrd, Stevens and their leaders, Senators George Mitchell and Robert Dole, concocted a shutout against citizens. They permitted .no public Committee hearings on pay hikes, as was the custom for many decades; they gave no notice or the time that the dente and vote were to take place and they moved to a quick vote before midnight after most of the media had gone home. In short, these shameful autocrats not only stiffed the people, they also stifled their -voice. They refused to give the people a decent interval to speak their opinions.

Now both the House and Senate politicians earn more than 6 times the average wage, more than 4 1/2 times the average family income, not to mention a hefty array of benefits and freebies. The Congress, with the support of Reagan and Bush, have more than doubled their pay since 1981 at the same time that the minimum wage for seven million Americans was frozen at $3.35 per hour until 1989 and now is at $4.25 per hour ($6500 a year) with virtually no benefits.

This triple affliction of Congressional remoteness, greed and arrogance is fueling a public outrage among both liberals and conservatives alike that is disgusted with both parties. This public revulsion is finding an expression in the fast growing drive to limit the terms of all politicians — federal, state and local.

Already passed in Oklahoma and California at the state level and Colorado for both state and federal offices, the term limitation momentum was called by the Wall St. Journal this week as a “gathering storm across the nation that may be heading straight” toward Congress.

But supporting term limits reflects the frustration of having no political alternatives to the look alike Democrats and Republicans. Where there was some electoral competition on the pay grab issue last November, three incumbents Reps. Jim bates, Doug Walgren and Doug Bosco — lost because they voted themselves higher salaries. New parties and new candidates will find a large amount of support among voters sick of politicians who lead by hypocrisy, cowardice and sleaze.

For now, citizens need to rise and repeal the Congressional pay grab. Support Cong. Andy Jacobs’ (D-IN) pay repeal legislation (his telephone number is 202-225-4011. The three men who can assure repeal are Senator George Mitchell (202-225-5344), Speaker Tom Foley (202-225-2006) and President Bush (202- 456-1111). Real citizens never give up.