If you blinked this past week, you missed it. Members of Congress got a $4,700 pay increase. The 2.8% increase is automatic and the Members receive it each year. However, they have the ability to freeze their salaries; that has yet to happen. In fact, legislation to do just that was introduced this year and never made it out of Committee.
It is not the $4,700 that is bothersome, nor is it their salaries. With the increase, a Member now makes approximately $170,000 a year. The leadership makes slightly more. It is certainly not chump change, but it also is not exorbitant.
What is disturbing about the $4,700 increase is that while over two million Americans lost their jobs this past year and there is nothing but doom and gloom on the economic front, our elected representatives did not seriously consider forgoing their pay raise. A symbolic belt tightening by Members of Congress would have sent the appropriate message to all Americans: we are all in this economic struggle together and we all have to do our own part to turn this economy around.
As Santa is doing some belt tightening and preparing his final list this week, it is disheartening that, in sympathy with the plight of many Americans, Congressional Members could not see their way clear to doing some belt tightening of their own.