(Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance) Congress returned to Washington this week for what will likely be a short session focused on doing as little as possible besides ensuring that government doesn't shut down when the federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. Doing as little as possible has become a common theme for this Congress. Congress has failed to pass any of the 12 required appropriations bills necessary to keep government open for business. Lawmakers have also failed to pass a budget since 2009 and done little to meaningfully addressed entitlement reform or the debt. Perhaps worst of all, Congress failed to make the spending cuts required by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- a.k.a. the Supercommittee -- before the deadline to prevent automatic cuts. (Those automatic spending cuts will also likely never take place if this do-nothing attitude continues into the next session.) This lack of action has led many pundits to use words such as, "lazy," "pathetic" and "failed" to describe the gridlocked Congress. Perhaps not surprisingly, Congress' job approval ratings are reaching all-time lows. In poll conducted jointly by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal in August, only 12 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing. Despite doing next to nothing in recent months, United States senators and representative receive a salary of $174,000 per year -- a pay that puts members of Congress among the top 5 percent of wage earners in the United States. But that hefty income is only the beginning.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is on track to supplant Disney® as the Happiest Place on Earth with a million dollar Vegas extravaganza in 2010 (read more here) and now a report that 84 GSA employees received $1.1 million in bonuses since 2008. The question is whether these folks are extraordinary workers or their bosses are incredibly generous. The issue though isn’t really about the motivation behind bonuses. The problem is about who received the bonuses and where the money for the bonuses came from, the taxpayer. After peeling the surface back further, we learn that the employees received the bonuses “while the inspector general was probing these individuals for wrongdoing or misconduct,” as Federal Radio News reported.
As Congress prepares to embark on another recess (they just had one for President’s holiday), Politico reports that the thrill is gone for many lawmakers. According to Politico, “They don’t make national policy anymore. They can’t earmark money for communities back home. The public hates them. And perks little and big, from private jet travel to a little free nosh now and then, have been locked down by ethics rules. As they head for the exits this year, many leaving Congress say the prestigious job of being a congressman sucks now, and that’s why lawmakers young and old are trading in their member pins for a new life in the private sector.” The truth is that they choose not to make national policy, earmarks aren’t really gone and there are still perks associated with being a member of Congress. The only accurate part of the sentiment is that the public does hate them, as evidenced by a 10 percent favorable rating.
In real life when an employee doesn’t do their job there are financial repercussions. When a member of Congress (employed and paid for by taxpayers) doesn’t do their job (such as passing a budget or appropriations bills on time) they go on recess and ask to be re-elected to the job they failed to do. If Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) has his way, there may be real financial consequences if members of Congress don’t do the most important part of their job, pass a budget. Rep. Broun introduced H.R. 3883, the “Budget or Bust Act,” to provide some linkage of job performance to pay. According to wnd.com, “HR 3883 says in part: ‘If on or before April 1 of any year Congress does not adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget for the fiscal year that begins on October 1 of that year, the Secretary of the Treasury shall deposit all payments otherwise required to be made for the compensation of members of Congress in an escrow account, and shall release such payments to the members only upon the adoption by Congress of a concurrent resolution on the budget for that fiscal year.’” Last year when Our Generation and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance released “Are Taxpayers Getting Their Money’s Worth? An Analysis of Congressional Compensation,” (read full report here) taxpayers were shocked to find out just how much members of Congress make with a base salary of $174,000 per year ($285,000 per year when benefits are calculated).
To say that there is a high level of frustration with Congress is an understatement. In fact, a recent Fox News poll had Congress’ job approval at a whopping 11 percent. On September 28, 2011, U.S. News and World Report published it’s “11 Things Wrong With Congress” blog posting and there were very few surprises. Third on the list was “Gold-plated benefits.” According to the article, “A recent study by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonprofit research group, found that fringe benefits for members of Congress are worth about $82,000 per year—which raises total compensation to well over $250,000. There may be a retirement crisis in many parts of America—but not on Capitol Hill.” The $250,000 number is a reference to a July 27 report released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and Our Generation (read full report here).
Are Taxpayers Getting Their Money's Worth? New Report Exposes the True Cost of Congressional Compensation
If the debate leading up to the debt ceiling deadline has told taxpayers anything, it is that Congress likes to wait until the last minute to do anything and they act like martyrs when they cancel part of their summer vacation. The American public is not being fooled. In a national Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, only 8 percent of likely U.S. voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Fifty-two percent rate Congress' performance as poor. To make matters worse, the same group of elected officials who have trouble coming to a consensus to save the country from economic Armageddon make a healthy living at taxpayers’ expense. A new report by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and Our Generation details the generous compensation for members of Congress, who receive a salary of $174,000 per year, as well as generous fringe benefits that boost their total compensation to $285,000 per year (read full report here).
California has become known for two things: setting trends (such as ham and pineapple pizza) and bad government. The latest example of bad government comes from our friends at Reason.com who reported that “Although excessive public-employee salaries are getting close attention in California, many ostensibly private officials – including a tourism bureau boss who makes almost $500,000 a year – are paid mostly or entirely from public money. In some cases, these compensation packages are higher than the pay of public employees who have been the focus of public outrage.” This “tourism bureau,” LA Inc., which is a non-profit organization that “functions as Los Angeles’ convention and visitors bureau,” has no seemingly justifiable existence and is funded by taxes.
On Sunday night, the Dallas Mavericks celebrated their first NBA championship. In winning the championship, the Mavs displayed clutch shooting, shrewd coaching, unwavering confidence in each other, and thrilling performances from their best player, Dirk Nowitzki.
But the Mavs, and several of the other top teams in pro basketball, have another advantage that most fans never consider.
After all, the advantage isn’t created in the weight room or on the practice courts. It’s gained in buildings that most players will never visit, in cities that are often hundreds of miles from where the teams play.