Friday, July 14, 2006

New York Times Editorial - A raise only for Congress

New York Times Editorial - A raise only for Congress
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: July 13, 2006


The U.S. Congress has just chopped a week off what already is a notoriously skimpy work calendar so that lawmakers will have extra campaign time at home this fall. You'll be relieved to know, however, that among the items already seen to was a pay increase - 2 percent over the current base salary of $168,500.

The pay raises are automatic unless Congress takes a vote to block them. In the past 16 years, the two houses have accepted 11 such cost-of-living raises while actively rejecting five.

Although lawmakers should draw decent salaries, it is hard to have patience with a body that allows its own pay to rise automatically while stonewalling any increase in the national minimum wage from $5.15 an hour.

For a family of three, the minimum wage of $10,700, set in 1997, is now more than $5,000 below the federal definition of poverty. In that same time, a lawmaker's salary rose by $31,600 - better than 20 percent - while the purchasing power of a minimum-wage earner deteriorated by 20 percent.

A rise in the minimum wage to $7.25 did get to the Senate floor, but fell short. Democrats vow to fight the congressional raise unless poor workers finally get a boost. This is a debate well worth having before members of Congress hurry off to brag to voters of the job they've done.

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