DEER IN HEADLINES
By Gery L. Deer
Did you know that the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits Congress from changing its own pay? The exact wording is, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
Although the amendment was submitted to the states for ratification way back in 1789, it was not adopted until 1992, more than 200 years later. It was conceived to prevent the legislative branch from giving itself unwarranted and outrageous increases in pay, but it also works in the reverse. So, according to the constitution, congress gets paid, no matter what happens.
Amid a government shutdown unnecessarily created by a congress that simply refuses to compromise (on either side), it is thoroughly reprehensible that they are not also deprived a paycheck. Compensation certainly outshines performance, particularly by congressional leaders.
According to an article published in 2011 by the Center for Public Integrity, “No legislator – living or dead – has been paid a higher salary by the taxpayer than Speaker Boehner.”
The article notes that the Speaker earns the highest annual salary of all his peers, at $223,500. On the other side of the dome, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional leaders are paid much less; just $193,400 per year.
Poor folks; It’s hard not to feel bad for them. Really, it must be terrible to have to struggle by on a measly couple-hundred-thousand a year. Yes, that was sarcasm.
There should be some way to cut Congress’s pay in midterm when they’re not living up to expectations and actually doing more harm than good. If they had to work a normal job, the current level of unsatisfactory performance would have gotten them all fired a couple of years ago.
Apparently, the only way to do have any financial impact on these people is to amend the 27th Amendment, allowing for congressional pay reductions at the will of the people. Administering such a procedure would be something of a logistical and legal challenge, but working it out would pay off in the end.
Direct and immediate job performance accountability, like everyone else endures at work, might actually motivate congressional leaders to the action of the people. At the moment, the only action they are taking is that which gives them the most spots on the Sunday morning news shows.
While hard-working government employees and their families go without pay, some struggling to put food on the table due to recent sequestrations, congressional big wigs luxuriate in the perks of the office, content in their jobs and in the foolhardiness and shockingly short memories of their constituencies. While there may be a few normal people on Capitol Hill, they are greatly outnumbered and hopelessly meek-voiced. A whisper from the back of the hall is nothing to the roar from the leadership seats.
Congress is currently enjoying its lowest approval rating ever, 87 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress’s performance according to an October 1st CNN poll. But until the American people say, “enough is enough,” this pointless bickering over the country’s finances will never cease. It’s as if the House and Senate are like an old married couple arguing over the checkbook register and who spent too much on the new blender they both needed.
Ridiculous filibusters and other Washington-style temper tantrums accomplish nothing, except to secure free press by presidential hopefuls no one has ever heard of now clambering for the spotlight. But, if members of Congress suddenly knew their pay would be cut and their jobs were in danger – now, not two years from now – they might make some effort to straighten all this out.
Until the 27th Amendment is amended, however, every single ineffectual member of congress will continue to collect their overstuffed paycheck. It’s time to show these people how the rest of America has to live because they clearly have no idea.