If you want to know why Congress has such low approval ratings, if you want to know why people get so mad at Washington, if you want to know why I’m about to start calling my local representatives and start screaming in a few minutes, here is the reason.
Last Tuesday, the House approved a $3300 pay raise for themselves, bringing their annual salaries to $168,500. And you want to know why so many of them are out of touch with the average American? There you have it, right there. USA Today notes that this is the seventh straight cost-of-living raise for Representatives in the House and Senate. It also notes that this 2% raise also applies to the office of the Vice President and Supreme Court Justices.
So OK, bad enough at a time when so many middle-class Americans are struggling to “put food on their family.”
But then guess what happens today? The Democrats put forth a proposal that would raise the minimum wage (which has not been raised in almost TEN YEARS) from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 by January 1, 2009, and it is defeated by Senate Republicans. We’re talking about a raise from $10,572 to $15,080 — both BEFORE taxes are taken out. We’re talking $206 per week to $290 per week — pre-tax.
Can you imagine how much that extra $50-60 per week after taxes would help someone at the very bottom of the earnings scale? Might help offset the increase in gas prices, might help offset the increase in electricity because of the higher fuel costs (our energy bill has virtually doubled due to the LIPA-imposed “Fuel Increase Surcharge” at the end of each bill). Might help them pay for a doctor visit before they get REALLY sick because they don’t have health insurance?
I remember what it was like to bring home around $200 a week. I remember what it was like having to look through my jacket pockets for an extra dollar to put gasoline in the car. I know what a difference that first raise made. It meant maybe an extra $30 per week, but it was that much more breathing room.
As Ted Kennedy noted, not all people who make minimum wage are kids. They are teaching assistants, home health aides, office building maintenance workers, etc. These people who are so vital to our country and who work a full forty hours per week are living below the poverty level unless they have more than one job or have two incomes.
It is immoral to vote yourself a raise and then deny one to the people whom you represent.