Monday, May 3, 2010

What Exactly Are The Cost Of Living Increases For Congress?

I came across this article from The Senior Citizens League, comparing the rise in congressional pay and the average Social Security payment.

The Senior Citizens League offer this little chart:

The article goes on to write the following:
For the first time since the automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) was introduced in 1975, seniors are receiving no COLA this year. Lawmakers, however, receive an automatic pay raise each year without having to cast a vote for it; instead, they would have to vote to block their annual pay raise. Lawmakers continue to enjoy massive wealth – a 2008 study by the Center for Responsive Politics reported that fully 61 of 100 senators were millionaires.

“This is a perfect example of the two types of rules we’ve gotten too used to seeing – those that politicians make for themselves, and those they make for the rest of us,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. “As lawmakers enjoy their six-figure incomes, they’ve too often turned a blind eye to the desperate plight of America’s seniors, who are struggling harder than ever to make ends meet.”
A majority of the 50 million Americans who receive a Social Security check depend on it for at least 50 percent of their total income, and one in three beneficiaries relies on it for 90 percent or more of their total income.

My only problem with their argument stems from their chart.  While I agree that congressional pay is an issue, when you look at the graph, it makes it appear as if legislators have seen a tremendous gain while seniors have not.  While an increase of over $70,000 is still far greater then $5,000, if you look at how much each amount had changed from their 1990 levels, the percentages are almost identical.

Social Security had risen 75% while congressional pay had increased 80%.  The Senior Citizens League makes it appear to be a greater disparity then what it really is.  Congressmen make more then Social Security, and they always will.  I think the real issue is not the difference between the two but the way in which legislators receive pay increases, which is automatic unless they vote on a pay freeze or decrease, and as the article points out, lawmakers haven't taken a pay cut since The Great Depression.

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