September 20, 1999
President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Clinton:
We urge you to veto the Treasury, Postal Service appropriations bill, which bestows yet another extravagant $4,600 pay raise on Members of Congress, boosting their annual salaries to $141,300, plus generous perks, pensions and benefits. The bill would also double the President's salary, to $400,000 per year.
It is unseemly for our top government officials to collect such princely raises when Congress is contemplating serious cuts in the education budget, and delaying payments on the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families. If Congress cannot safeguard funding for the education of our children, and protect the income of poor families, then it surely does not deserve such an opulent pay raise.
This is an opportunity for you to lead by example, to impose some fiscal accountability upon the arrogant Members of Congress who would slash budgets for American children to pay for their own raises. Shame on them. You would dignify our government by limiting their greed.
During the last twenty years, Members of Congress have seen fit to increase the minimum wage six times, to only $5.15 per hour. Meanwhile, House Members have given themselves eleven raises, Senators twelve. Since 1979, Congress has raised the minimum wage by 78%, but has been more generous to itself, boosting congressional salaries by 138%. Congress ought to attend to the needs of the working poor before themselves
While it is true that the presidential salary has not increased in thirty years, as you know, the President suffers no real privations. The presidency receives a salary of $200,000 per year, a $50,000 expense allowance, regal living expense benefits, and a near certain prospect, if desired, of becoming a multimillionaire upon leaving office. The value of a presidential pension is $152,000 annually in fiscal year 1999. Ten years ago, according to The New York Times, Lloyd Cutler, then-chairman of the Commission on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Salaries, estimated that the value of president perquisites was then about $500,000 per year. That is more than enough.
A majority of Members of Congress have embraced the mindset of Marie Antoinette. Such callousness does not befit the elected leaders of a democracy. Please veto the pay raises, and enhance the moral authority of our government.