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Forum Post: White House petition to tie Congressional pay to U.S. per capita income

Posted 2 years ago on Dec. 14, 2012, 10:10 a.m. EST by BFuerst (0)
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Please sign my White House petition! http://wh.gov/R5Cn

Thanks, Butler

Here's the 'long version', since the White House website only allows 800 characters:

This petition aims to: 1) fix the annual salary of federal legislators directly to the national average of individual salaries in the United States 2) revise and simplify the Congressional pension.

First, an important note should be made: though they may seem so, these recommendations are not motivated by purely budgetary reasoning, nor for the sake of ‘popular reprisal’ against a seemingly ineffective legislative body.

Current legislation dictating the pay and benefits owed to members of the Congress should be altered. The following are two simple suggestions to begin that process, following from the idea that pay and benefits for federal legislators should be tied directly to the fiscal wellbeing of citizens and residents of the United States. In accordance with this general idea, such legal revisions would be ideally conceived so that after implementation the Congress could not directly make alterations to them (but would be required to follow, for example, a process similar to – if not the same as – the process necessary for passing or repealing a constitutional amendment).

1) Concerning annual salaries:

The annual salaries for members of Congress will be directly based on the national average of individual salaries in the United States as determined by the Bureau of the Census. Accordingly, the salary of federal legislators will fluctuate with regular reevaluation by the Census.

A thoroughly fair number seems to be double. In other words, members of Congress will be paid an annual salary that is double the salary of the average American.

To put this into perspective, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘quick facts’ reference page (quick facts), using data from the 2010 census, the 12-month per capita money income in our country was just $27,334.

In other words, at present, rather than the standard annual salary of $174,000 (or, higher for legislators in leadership positions), all members of Congress, regardless of position, will be welcome to an annual salary of $54,668.

2) Concerning retirement pension:

Congressional pensions will be limited to 5 years at half salary upon honorable completion of service (meaning, completion of the entire duration of an elected term), with 1 additional year of pension benefits added for each term served after the first. There will be no vesting period.

In other words (again following the 2010 census data): a Representative who serves only 1 term (2 years) will have made a salary of $109,336. Then, over the next 5 years, that representative will earn an additional $136,670.

This is not meant to show ingratitude to our Congressmen and Congresswomen. Nearly a quarter million dollars in seven years is a very generous income, especially as a supplement if one then moves on to take another job.

At present (at least for those who entered Congress after January, 1987), congressional pensions are structured under the Federal Employees Retirement System. An individual is vested after 5 years of service, and can then receive a full pension after a) serving 25 years; b) turning 62; c) turning 50 and also having 20 years of service.

The primary concern here is to remove members of Congress from being considered as ‘normal’ federal employees in regards retirement. Given the structuring of the current system, members of Congress have a financial incentive to do everything they can to remain in office from 5 to 25 years. In other words, members of Congress currently have a financial incentive to do and say whatever they think will get them reelected. There is great potential in this set-up for members of Congress to act in ways that serve their own interests before that of their constituencies; to appear effective rather than actually being effective.

This is not to say that a person who wishes to run for multiple terms cannot be devoted to his or her constituency. And, certainly, members of Congress should be allowed to serve as many terms as their constituency wishes to elect them.

To close: our elected officials should be well treated, but service in the legislature should not be a route to riches (at the present rate of pay, a Senator who serves a full term of six years will make over one million dollars). An annual salary that is double the average income in this country should be more than ample to live on if well managed. And, if a member of Congress cannot effectively create and follow a personal budget, then we may have cause for concern regarding capacity to legislate for an entire nature. In any event, service is said to be an honor in and of itself and so, in theory, should be more than an ample reward.

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