Thursday, January 08, 2009

Congress doesn't think much of American workers

GM and UAW officials are holding meetings because, under terms of the bailout approved by the Bush administration, GM must bring its own hourly wage costs in line with those of Toyota and other Japanese automakers that operate nonunion factories in the United States. Aside from the fact that I find it outrageous foreign companies have been allowed to push our wages down in this country, I'm also outraged by Congress.

I'm not the only one. Check out this editorial from The Livingston Daily: FEDERAL PAY RAISES: Pay hikes show what Congress thinks of American workers
Remember, during the whole debate over a bridge loan for auto companies, how members of Congress kept saying autoworkers are overpaid? Some U.S. senators and representatives claimed United Auto Workers members were knocking down $73, even $75, per hour.

That led federal lawmakers, like U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to call for a cut in pay for auto workers as a condition of the "bailout."

It turns out the figure was wildly wrong. You can only get to figures that high if you include all kinds of things not typically considered wages — health care, benefits, vacation time, pension costs, retirees' health care, etc.
The paper did the math and pointed out that full-time workers actually earn between $58,240 and $61,942 annually, which they point out is a decent living but won't make a person rich. Compare that to our lawmakers in Washington.
Still, it is a far cry from the $169,300 that U.S. senators and representatives were paid this year. If Congress members really work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks out of the year (and they don't), it is well over the $73 per hour rate they so objected to. It would in fact be more than $81 per hour, and that's not counting their benefits, their health care or their pension costs.

What's more, lawmakers are going to get a raise. Yup, that $81 an hour isn't good enough for them. They deserve more. Come January, U.S. senators and representatives get an additional $4,700 in their yearly paycheck, bringing their annual haul to $174,000. Assuming again, a 40-hour week for 52 weeks, that pay rate comes to a whopping $83.65 per hour.
They drew the following conclusion:
So let's make sure we have the logic correct — people who actually build things, in this case automobiles, deserve a pay cut from their $29.78 an hour ... it is lawmakers who deserve a boost in pay to $83.65 an hour ... for getting their facts wrong when they debate issues, like how much autoworkers get paid.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Lawmakers get raises when they make mistakes and spread lies. They even get them in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. That's a sweet deal.

Hypocrisy aside, higher pay was supposed to translate into better government when Congress voted to raise their pay in 1989 from $89,500 to $135,000 annually. So much for that theory. We're fighting a war based on lies, inequality is at levels not seen since the Depression, our economy is in a deep recession, unemployment numbers could be 10% or higher by summer, millions of people have lost their homes to foreclosure, and millions more live in poverty and/or without health insurance.

In the real world, they'd be fired for such gross negligence.


abi said...

The problem with Congress (one among many) is that they think they're so much better than us common riff-raff, and that attitude is reflected in what they pay themselves.

I have an idea. Instead of giving themselves pay raises, Congress should be paid based on median family income. And so they won't complain about having to maintain two households - one in their home state and one in DC - they should be paid the median income of their home state plus the median income in DC.

In 2007, median income in Michigan was $47,950, and it was $54,317 in DC. That means each member of the Michigan delegation should be paid $102,267 this year, not $174,000.

Fat chance, eh?

Kathy said...

Abi, fat chance is right! They also have superlative health care. I say put them on an HMO plan with high co-pays and deductibles, and take it away from them once they leave office. Let them pay for Cobra or a Medicare supplement like the rest of us.