Just days before the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson that forever changed her life, Rep. Gabby Giffords introduced legislation to cut the salaries of members of Congress by five percent. Now, as the 12 members of the Super Committee struggle to adequately reduce the nation’s borrowing to avoid the sequestration triggers, her staffers have made a point to remind them of Giffords’ idea to slash congressional pay.
Her office corralled 25 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle (11 Republicans and 14 Democrats) to write a letter to the committee, urging them to consider Giffords’ proposal as yet one more way to reduce spending.
It’s a common-sense suggestion that would save $50 million over the next 10 years. Take the idea a step further and reduce Congressional compensation by 10 percent … and those savings increase to $100 million.
It’d be one thing if the members of Congress were barely squeaking by, if nobody wanted to be in Congress because the incentives were just so poor. But that’s hardly the case. According to the letter, U.S. members of Congress receive salaries that are 3.4 times the average full-time wage. That makes our legislators among the most generously compensated in the world, as the average legislator in a developed nation receives just 2.3 times the average full-time wage.
Furthermore, the last time Congress took a pay cut was in 1933. In contrast, the typical American family has seen income fall the past three years in a row. As the letter puts it, cutting congressional pay would “send a powerful message to the American people that Congress should not be exempt from the sacrifices it will take to balance the budget.” In fact, I’d argue that, until they do cut their own pay, they really have no business calling for increased sacrifice from anybody else.