Congressional Pay—and Immigration
August 06, 2006, 11:00 AM
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The Progressive Populist writes:

DEMS: TIE REP PAY TO MINIMUM WAGE: More Democrats are joining Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)'s fight to make members of Congress more accountable for their pay raises. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said (6/27) he'll use parliamentary rules to block a $3,300 annual pay hike, to $168,500, approved by the House (6/13) if it's not accompanied by a minimum-wage increase from the $5.15 that has remained unchanged since 1997, while Congressional pay has increased $31,700. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) have introduced a bill linking pay raises to the minimum wage. A Senate Republican aide told Newsday the Clinton-Kennedy bill is "dead," but the majority would likely kill any congressional raise this year to protect vulnerable incumbents. Dems in both houses want the federal minimum wage to rise in 70-cent increments to $7.25 by January 2009. In July, 52 senators approved a similar raise in a test vote, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to avert a GOP filibuster.

This is a real interesting idea with one fatal flaw:It would be much more interesting if the pay of representatives—and possibly stuff like estate taxes and taxes on the top 1% of most wealthy Americans were tied to the income of the income and/or wealth holdings of the bottom 10% in American society.

The actual income of the folks at the bottom of the economic heap is related to a lot more things than then minimum wage—the size of the EITC, overall economic climate and immigration policy are all major contributing factors. I'd also index congressional pensions this way and limit how congressman can cash in indirectly from their congressional experience—even if we needed to raise congressional pay to the level of Ministers in Singapore to get these guys really focused on the public business. Maybe we should throw in a pay boost—and similar linkage for the Congressional aides.

I think if we did so, we'd get a government that thought longer term—and stuff like immigration policy would take on a whole different perspective for our congressional representatives.

Somehow, I expect stuff like McCain/Kennedy/Bush would lose a lot of the appeal it now has if representatives knew that lowering the income of poor Americans would also lower their own pensions, they had limited ways to get money other ways—and that they were affecting the long term economic health on the people around them likely to know about their dirty little secrets.