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'