Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stupidity (Washington), good sense (Idaho)


By PAT MURPHY

Taxpayers can't possibly forget those televised moments when congressmen anguished over the financial distress of Americans and railed against Detroit auto executives and their callous show of wealth by flying to Washington on their corporate jets. Oh, where art thy feelings, the lawmakers stormed at the executives for full effect.

Turns out this was just more sham hypocrisy and alligator tears out of Congress to impress folks back home. Lawmakers with such public posturing and pompous pity for the pecuniary plight of American households are about to give taxpayers the upraised middle finger.

Unless a majority in the Democrat-controlled U.S. House and Senate votes to block it, an automatic cost-of-living boost next month will raise congressional pay 2.8 percent to $174,000 a year, or about $4,700 for each member. So-called leaders—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—are in hiding, meantime.

Thus far, a few members have sputtered their objections and proposed turning it down, while a few promise to donate increases to charity. However, most members have remained silent or defensive and seem prepared to let the raise take effect in the dark of night.

Those willing to defend a COLA raise complain of the high costs of maintaining residences back home and in the nation's capital. Poor dears.

Have they forgotten so soon the horrors of millions of Americans who've (a) lost their jobs, (b) lost their homes to foreclosures, or (c) had their wages reduced or frozen? Have they forgotten the terrible impact on the consumer economy of the tens of billions of dollars that Congress has approved for five years for the Iraq war and bailouts of Wall Street?

Thousands of Washington residents get by comfortably on a lot less than congressional salaries and perks, many of them lesser-paid civil servants with two homes to maintain while on duty in Washington.

But even that isn't the point. The symbolism of Congress' taking a boost in pay while shedding tears for the financial straits of taxpayers is a powerful indictment of the Washington culture's shamefully insincere character.

Meanwhile, better sense is being shown in Idaho. Democratic state Sen. Les Bock of Boise plans to introduce a bill next month rejecting a 5 percent pay raise recommended by a Legislature-created citizens committee—from $16,116 per year to $16,921.

After citing the travails of thousands of strapped Idahoans, Sen. Bock said the obvious:

"We cannot in good conscience accept a raise at this time."

If Idaho lawmakers go along, they'll put Congress to shame.




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