A coalition of organizations and prominent Americans opposing a Congressional pay raise sent a letter today to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). The letter was signed by Ralph Nader, Paul Weyrich, and leaders of the Congressional Accountability Project, U. S. Term Limits, the Reform Party, the Libertarian Party, Term Limits Legal Institute, and the Independence Institute. The letter follows:
Dear Representatives Gingrich and Gephardt, and Senators Lott and Daschle:
We are writing to oppose a Congressional pay raise.
Some members of Congress want to raise their salaries. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, the powerful chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Rep. Bob Livingston and Sen. Ted Stevens, say they support a Congressional pay raise.
We stand with the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that members of Congress should not vote themselves a pay raise. A November 1995 poll conducted by Maricopa Research found that 95 percent of Americans want members of Congress to cut -- not increase -- their salaries.
Members of Congress are public servants. They are trustees of the public purse. Their job is -- in part -- to safeguard the taxpayers' money from raids by the greedy, the self-serving, and the undeserving. Our federal government is more than $5 trillion in debt. With such an enormous debt, it is fitting that members of Congress should decline to raise their pay.
Sadly, too many members of Congress have wished to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense. Consequently, members of Congress now earn $133,600 per year -- many multiples of the median annual individual income in the United States. They receive generous perquisites, many of which detract from the dignity of the Congress. Many members of Congress will be pension millionaires when they retire.
Many members of Congress receive large raises when they come to Congress. A Roll Call study last year found that "all but six of the 73 newly elected House members will receive large pay hikes when they take office" compared to their previous employment.
Members of Congress have repeatedly voted themselves generous pay raises, while many Americans have not received a real raise in a generation or more. Just over ten years ago, in January 1987, members of Congress were paid $77,400 per year. Since then, members of Congress have voted themselves a real salary increase of $22,000 above inflation, in 1997 dollars. House members have enjoyed five pay raises, and senators six since then.
Compare that to other Americans. Adjusted for inflation, the median male income for full-time year-round workers was higher in 1969 than it was in 1995. For women, median full-time year-round income was higher in 1986 than it was in 1995.
Members of Congress are paid too much, and receive too many emoluments from the taxpayers -- the vast majority of whom earn far less than members of Congress. One small step towards restoring humility and moral authority to our Congress would be to forsake this inappropriate pay raise.
Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project
Paul Jacob, Executive Director, U.S. Term Limits
Russell Verney, Chairman, Reform Party, and Executive Director, United We Stand America
Paul M. Weyrich, National Chairman, Coalitions for America
Steve Dasbach, National Chairman, Libertarian Party
Cleta Mitchell, Director and General Counsel, Term Limits Legal Institute
Tom Tancredo, Executive Director, Independence Institute