Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Congress Makes 15.7 Times the Minimum Wage

So there’s no increase in the minimum wage for like the tenth year in a row, but there is an increase in congressional pay for the sixth time in the same period. I have mixed feelings about the minimum wage (it’s not the first thing I would abolish), but I am definitely against congressional pay raises. How does congressional pay compare to the minimum wage over time?

This site shows the federal minimum wage since 1955 and in constant dollars. In 1955 it was 75cents an hour, or $4.39 in constant dollars. Today, it is $5.15, or $4.04 in constant dollars, and it has never been lower. The highest was 1968, when $1.60 an hour meant $7.21 in constant dollars.

Meanwhile, congressional pay has skyrocketed. This site shows the ratio of minimum wage to congress salary in 2005 dollars since 1938. In 2005, congress earned 15.7 times minimum wage, based on a 2000 hour year. That’s the highest since 1944. In the early 1950s, congress was content to earn 8.3 times the minimum wage. (Then again, wasn’t that the “do-nothing” congress Truman complained about?)

This site advocates tying congressional pay to the minimum wage and capping it at no more than 10 times the minimum. If that were the case, congressional pay would be $103,000 per year instead of more than $168,000.

Since 1981 when Ronald Reagan came to DC on promises of getting government off the people’s backs, minimum wage has increased 66% from $3.10 to $5.15 while congressional pay has increased 167% from $60,662 to 162,100 in 2005. It’s up again in 2006 to more than $168,000.

Based on what I’ve seen on C-Span, the news, and in meeting congressvarmints, most of the bozos in congress could not earn anything like what they are getting as legislators in the real world. Higher pay is not attracting better quality legislators, and I reckon that we could get the same quality for less than half the price. I could get behind tying congressional pay to the minimum wage and would support paying congressvarmints no more than 10 times the minimum wage. They would still be overpaid in most cases.

Would this makes congressvarmints more likely to raise the minimum wage? I don’t think the business community that owns congress would allow it to go up much. Rather, they would find a way to slip their pet legislators a little extra something to ease the pain. These are their legislators; they should be paying them instead of sticking the rest of us with the bill.

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