When it comes to Congress, there is little that should surprise people. There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate how far out of touch with reality all of America’s politicians are.
Today, America is in a deep recession -- perhaps one of historic proportions. The Federal Government is running the highest deficit levels in history. Those deficits are expected to reach if not surpass $1 trillion by the end of the next year.
The bid by GM and Chrysler for a federal bail out failed, primarily because the union representing auto workers, the UAW (United Auto Workers Union) would not agree to an across the board cut in wages for its workers. Congress is demanding that the auto workers earn the same as foreign car manufacturers workers.
This demand is realistic in some respects. There is little doubt however that these workers have sweet pay and benefit packages which could easily be considered to be ridiculous. What a massive pay cut for these unionized workers would do to their own personal financial situations is unknown, and apparently not being considered by Congress. There is little evidence that auto workers are living “high on the hog” off their earnings. No doubt, due in part to the nature of the auto industry in general, many of these workers are living from pay check to pay check due in part to the fact that they are financially over extended. just like the majority of all Americans.
What is interesting is that Congress did not make the same demands for, or on, executive pay for the auto industry. The record is also extremely silent for such demands on the banking industry or AIG, which have been the recipients of massive infusions from the federal government.
Another interesting item is that both the House and the Senate moved quickly to reduce the potential pay package for the new presumed Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Under law, known as the Emoluments Clause, no member of Congress can be appointed to a government post if that job's pay was increased during the lawmakers current term. What this means is that Clinton will not be able to earn the $191,300 that current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is earning. Instead, the pay gets rolled back to $186,600.
Congress was correct in following the law. However, the cynics will no doubt start taking bets on when Congress will move to make sure that the pay roll back gets “unrolled” in relatively short order. That’s just the way that politics works.
One can only wonder why Congress didn’t take things a step further though, given that they were looking at financial matters. Senators are expected to receive a pay raise of $4,700 next year which will take their salary to $174,000. Few could argue convincingly that they are worth that much money, especially given that roughly 50% of them are already millionaires.
If the Senate was truly concerned about the financial crisis and the mounting and seemigly uncontrollable deficit, they would have also voted to roll back their own salaries. How they can justify a raise for themselves while demanding that working class workers take a pay cut is unfathomable.
There is no doubt that auto workers should, if they are truly concerned about their jobs, step up to the plate and make some serious concessions. Members of Congress should do the same. After all, the current economic crisis happened on their watch, and their free wheeling spending has gone a long ways toward creating a deficit that is not only out of control, but also unconscionable.