Friday, September 23, 2005

(sort of) Constitutional Study, part 3

Article I: The Legislative Branch

Section 6 - Compensation

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. (The preceding words in italics were modified by Amendment XXVII- see below.) They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Amendment XXVII - Congressional pay increases. Ratified 5/7/1992.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

I was reading a blog entry about what budget cuts we should consider to help pay for the aftermath of Katrina and the rebuilding of New Orleans. I've already stated my controversial opinion about the rebuilding of New Orleans (we shouldn't rebuild it exactly the way it was). And now that hurricane Rita is sending some threat their way again, I feel even stronger about not spending so much tax revenue on rebuilding a coastal city below sea level. I mean, aren't we supposed to learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them? Anyway, this person's post suggested cutting all the social welfare programs like food stamps, school lunch assistance, Medicaid, and the new prescription plan for seniors. While I agree that those programs are vulnerable to abuse and waste, I also know a lot of people who are the real working poor. And without the help that some of those programs offer they wouldn't be able to make it.

Did you know, for example, that someone who is a paranoid schizophrenic who is so ill that they can't work has to live off an SSI(disability) check of $812.00 per month? That isn't enough for shit. Mentally ill people like that have to live in public housing that is dangerous and run down, they have to get food stamps to be able to eat, they usually have no vehicle, and they only have Medicaid (or TennCare/HillaryCare in TN which has bankrupted the state and that's another topic) for health insurance. When people talk of cutting these programs they are thinking of the people who are lazy and cheat, but they forget that there are more who truly need the assistance. Perhaps the first place might be to stop giving assistance to illegal aliens. Most don't pay any payroll taxes because their employers pay them cash 'under the table' (it's cheaper for the employers as well as for the employees), but that's another topic too.

What does this have to do with Legislative compensation? Well, that blogger asked what we would suggest for cuts. My recommendation was that Congress should cut their salaries in half. Their salary is $162,100 per year, but some positions get more. Half of that ($81050) times 535 is $43,361,750. Sure, $43 million is a drop in the bucket, but it means more to the elderly and working poor than it does to the representatives who don't rely on their salaries to survive. They are asking all of us to sacrifice and tighten our belts, yet they won't do it themselves. Hell, they all could afford to forfeit their entire salaries for a year, and that would up the amount to about $86 million. Again, just a drop in the bucket, but it's a start. Click here to browse the federal budget. I know there are many other places to make cuts that the legislators don't have the courage or integrity to approach. They are all too eager to vote themselves raises, and the 27th Amendment really doesn't make much of a difference. So what if they don't get their raise until after an election? They still get it.

I do consider myself pretty conservative in fiscal matters. But I am also pretty compassionate about people who really do have difficulties in life. To throw out entire programs just because there is waste and corruption is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don't have all the answers, and many of the ones I come up with are laughable (sometimes on purpose). But I do try to 'think outside the box' and find new ways of looking at things. I do think that our leaders are going to have to start living up to their positions and doing a much better job of leading. And they are going to have to start thinking in different terms and doing things in different ways. Just look at the evacuation mess in Texas right now. They told everyone to leave and it turned into a freakin' stampede. They have got to have better, more detailed plans for everything.

It's clear that we Americans are largely very generous in times of need. We step up and donate our money, time, and other resources to help each other without much prodding. Isn't it ironic that the people who are our elected representatives don't demonstrate the same traits as their constituents?

UPDATE: just throwing out some rough facts, figures, and links for more information if you like charts, graphs, etc. like I do

from 2000 census, total # of 65+ is 34,991,753 and 13,978,118 are considered disabled (41.9%)

interesting quick facts about the American population

poverty figures about 6,620,945 families below poverty level (good chart on that link)

*funny side note, spell-check recommended 'foreskin' to replace 'freakin'


Assorted Babble by Suzie said...

The best post I have read in a long time! I totally agree with you with the except of rebuilding N.O., I am with you on the rest 300%.

I believe this should be submitted to our government and/or to the news media for coverage.

Thank you so much for writing this, it is awful how many of these crooks/politicians get paid and receive pay increases while trying to take away from the deserving poor and ones that totally depend on legitimate help they need. B/c of illegal immigration, fraud, etc. brings more attn and justification for them to review these cuts. Instead of getting down on that border with a 12 ft electrified fence with more border control. I could rant on this for awhile.

I think as you stated them cutting their pay would help tremendously to start along with all the other kickbacks they get from lobbyist etc. They make plenty aside from voting, occasionally if they show up, from their other businesses and investments.

I feel like you do when it comes to the compassion of others less fortunate and it is not fair the way they are treated. Years now they have been taking their homes-immient domain, placing them in undesirable places infected w/crime, forgetting the homeless in our country, etc. etc. etc. etc. I feel for elderly that have to choose between food or meds. This whole subject infuriates me.

There are links on my site for writing our states and federal elected officials.

Thank you RaeAnn for writing this, I recommend all to read it!
Your friend, Suzie...p.s. Tell your Dad hello (smiling)

Rae Ann said...

suzie, thank you!! That's so nice of you to say all that. About rebuilding N.O., I'm not saying that we shouldn't rebuild. We have to! I just think we need to do it in a very practical and common-sense way. And actually, I'm not sure I want too much attention because I'm very shy and insecure in real life! (in other words, the media would rips me to shreds)

Porkopolis said...

I can't go along with your proposal to cut the pay for Congressmen and Senators.

Here's my problem with it. It might lead to more corruption if the people we send to Washington aren't properly compensated.

Now a good argument can be made that we're not getting our money's worth in leadership and fiscal responsibility, but that makes the argument for kicking out the current 'crop' (pun intended) and starting over with true fiscal conservatives.

We should get what we pay for...the problem is we're not.

Thanks for visiting Porkopolis :)

Rae Ann said...

pork, I would agree with you if our representatives were just regular people who served their country in the representative capacity. But our Congress has turned representation into a career and that's not really what it was supposed to be. Yeah, we should hoe all of them up and throw them to the trash pile.

Rae Ann said...

ps, there is a facetious tone to that post that might not have been clear enough

DHammett said...

Much of the federal government is going to a "pay for performance" system. Instead of getting paid based on the number of years an employee has managed to feed from the public trough, there are standards of performance set. If the emloyee meets or exceeds the standards, he/she gets a raise. If not, it's a pay cut. Then, set standards such as balancing the budget. If Congress were to go to a pay for performance systiem, is it unreasonable to think we'd soon see a change in how our country is managed?

The problem is that pork programs bring money to states and congressional districts. Every senator and congressman wants to cut what doesn't affect their constituents. But if they lose projects, then they hear about it in their home states or don't get elected in the next cycle. That's why under-the table deals get made and all sorts of garbage gets put into bills and approved.

Rae Ann said...

dh, I think you should run for office or something! You'd be SO much better than who's in there now.