Saturday, June 27, 2009

Open Letter: Congressional Pay

Dear Senators and Representatives,

I am writing today about the ever-contentious issue of Congressional pay. I am tired of hearing about the issue every year or so, and even more tired the political theatrics that accompany each vote. I have a very simple solution: tie the pay of various federal officials to the federal minimum wage.

Tying pay to the minimum wage would have benefits beyond getting rid of silly political posturing. First, it would help people remember exactly how much the current minimum wage is set at. Many federal elected officials (but not the Vermont delegation, of course) would benefit from being reminded on a regular basis. Second, it would help illustrate how excessive the pay packages of executives and financial types have been over the past decade. Even at a salary set at 40 times the minimum wage, the president would be vastly underpaid compared to executives at major corporations, who are often paid 500 or 1000 times the minimum wage – whether or not their companies are profitable.

Below is my proposed pay schedule. The new salaries would give considerable raises to many federal officials because I believe they are currently underpaid relative to the importance of their responsibilities. Higher pay would also reduce the need or incentive for senior officials to become lobbyists after leaving government. Slowing the speed of the revolving door would save taxpayers billions in the long run because former government officials are very good at lobbying for unnecessary spending items, as well as much more costly tax breaks.

  • President – 40 times minimum wage of $7.25 per hour – $603,000
  • Vice-President, Supreme Court Justices – 30 times – $452,500
  • Senators, Cabinet Secretaries – 25 times – $377,000
  • Representatives, Appeals judges – 20 times – $301,600
  • Under-secretaries, District judges – 15 times – $226,200
  • Etc.

Obviously, enacting these changes is low priority right now, but they would probably take a couple of cycles to pass even in good economic times. Nonetheless, I would like the Vermont delegation to begin drafting the legislation so it can be put forward sometime next year.

Thank you for your time.

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