IF THERE is a bright side to the [Senate] pay raise, it is that the salary increase is coupled with a renunciation of honoraria, usually fees for speeches and appearances. In the past, special-interest groups have paid influential senators and members of Congress excessive amounts of money for showing up at a function. In some cases the fees have appeared to be payoffs for past and future favors.
Compared to the six-figure, or higher, salaries for athletes, entertainers and many corporate executives, $125,000 for a U.S. senator may not be out of line. But consumer advocate Ralph Nader argues $125,000 is 4 1/2 times the average family income of Americans and six times the average pay of workers in this country. Another source reports that of the 100 member of the U.S. Senate, 26 already are millionaires.
Our problem with the raise is three-fold:
First, we don't like the way they handled it -- late at night when there was as little attention by the news media and public as possible.
Second, the timing is poor with the country in a recession.
Third, we don't like the idea of big pay raises for Congress while the nation is carrying such a huge budget deficit -- a dilemma for which Congress is mostly responsible.