What are we paying members of Congress $285,000 per year for?

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To say that taxpayers are frustrated with the failure of Congress to address the pressing national problems is an understatement.  Part of taxpayers’ frustration stems from the fact that Members of Congress receive pay and benefits far in excess of the average working American and their pay does not seem to reflect their abysmal job performance. In fact a FOX News poll recently had Congress’ job approval at a whopping low 10 percent. 

On top of the yearly salary of $174,000, Members of Congress also receive generous fringe benefits that bring their total compensation to $285,000 per year.  This is far more than those received by typical private-sector employees.  

Unlike the private sector, where salaries are earned from willing customers, Congressional salaries and benefits are taken out of the pockets of the struggling taxpayers.  And, also unlike the private sector, members of Congress are not paid for performance, as evidenced by the $14.5 trillion debt that they have accumulated over the years. Any manager in any private-sector business would not stay employed for budget overruns like these. 

Another way to measure congressional salaries is to compare their salaries with the average wages earned by private-sector employees.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an average full-time employee in the United States earns annual pay of $50,875. This means that Members of Congress make 3.4 times more than the average full-time American worker. 

In addition, on average, legislators in other parts of the developed world receive salaries equal to 2.3 times the average wage of a full-time worker.  By these standards, Members of Congress are among the highest-paid legislators in the world. 

Most taxpayers will agree that to attract competent people to serve as a member of Congress that they should be compensated adequately for their efforts.  A 10 percent cut in pay would put them closer to what other developed countries pay their lawmakers and still be able to attract the best and brightest. This cut would show sensitivity to the pain the rest of the country is suffering.  

Americans have had to make do with less and congressmen should be receptive regarding the salaries and benefits they give themselves.  Furthermore, given record budget deficits, debt, and Congress’ seeming inability to agree on plans to address the shortfall, many Americans are skeptical of what they receive in return for what they are paying. 

MacMillin Slobodien is Executive Director of Our Generation  and David Williams is President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. 

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