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Congress needs a pay cut this season

With stories of corruption and incompetence on Capitol Hill flying across the airwaves, it makes sense that the effort in Washington is being put in question.

CNN has recently been running a series of stories and specials called “Broken Government.” In the series, CNN looks into the idea – perhaps the fact – that our wonderful elected leaders just might be failing at their duties.

So what? It’s been obvious, you think. However, there are things going on in Congress that you probably don’t even know about.

For example, do you know how many days a week your congressional representatives work at the moment?

If you said anything but three days a week, you’re wrong. According to CNN’s findings, that’s how many days on average your representatives work for you.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott backs up those findings. In CNN’s story, Lott mentioned that many co-workers on Capitol Hill would come to him, looking to leave by Friday for a four-day weekend.

Maybe that could explain why Congress gets nothing done these days. Half the time means half the work getting done.

But wait, there’s more!

Though they work less and less, congressional pay has been slowly on the rise. The U.S. Senate’s own Web site, www.senate.gov, lists Senate salaries all the way back to 1789. Since 2000, Senate pay has increased nearly $25,000.

Currently, each member of Congress earns $165,200 per year, while House and Senate leaders earn more than that. Seems like a fair amount for a whole year’s worth of work.

But Congress doesn’t work all year. In fact, last year, the Senate was only in session for 159 days during the year. The House was only in session for 141 days in 2005.

On top of that, federal disclosure forms released this summer by all 100 senators revealed that 40 of them are millionaires. Similar releases in 2004 revealed 123 of the 435 representatives were millionaires as well. However, because representatives are re-elected quite frequently, it’s likely that these numbers are still fairly accurate.

The idea that this Congress is doing nothing, yet taking nearly $90 million a year for it, is absolutely ludicrous and shouldn’t happen.

Perhaps a pay scale based on attendance or performance could best judge what members of Congress should earn. The problem, though, is there is no way to really judge either attendance or performance correctly.

Instead, I propose cutting congressional pay significantly.

The first part involves dividing members of Congress by those who are millionaires and those who are not. Those earning more than $1 million would receive no pay for being a member of Congress.

The reasoning behind this idea is that members of Congress with more than $1 million don’t really have a need for the extra money. They’re already better off than many Americans, and their salaries can go toward better things.

The second part involves cutting the pay of all other members of Congress in half, to $82,600. Doing half the work equals out to getting half of the pay.

All in all, these cuts would save the taxpayers $58 million that could better be put toward better purposes. Perhaps we could use it as an initial investment towards education or fighting poverty. You know, things we should be putting some money into?

The American taxpayer should not have to pay for a half-done job. Congress has failed to pass important legislation on the minimum wage, Social Security reform, immigration and a host of other issues.

Instead, they spend their days taking pot-shots at each other over everything going wrong. If I wanted to see the left and right go after each other, I’d watch old tapes of “Crossfire.”

It’s time for Congress to pay up for their lack of work. What better way to do it than to hit them where it hurts: their wallets.

Send comments to Brian Szabelski at [email protected].

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