Congress Goes on Vacation As Taxpayers Continue to Work to Pay the Country’s Bills

David Williams

August 5, 2011

Congress left for recess on August 2, immediately after they raised the debt ceiling and promised to cut spending.  With a month long vacation (they call it district time) and plenty of time on their hands, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) wants to know if you see your member of Congress at an official town hall meeting or at the local grocery store.  What is remarkable about their month-long absence is that they will have one month of “district time” and that they make $174,000 per year.  With very generous benefits such as retirement, pension and health coverage, their total compensation is roughly $285,000 per year (read the report here).  If you do run into your member of Congress we have a few questions you might want to ask:

1.  Are you willing to take a pay cut? Members of Congress receive pay and benefits far in excess of what average working Americans receive. In addition to a salary of $174,000 per year, which by itself puts legislators among the highest-paid five percent of U.S. workers, Members of Congress also receive generous fringe benefits. In fact, congressional compensation, including benefits, totals around $285,000 per year. With the average full-time employee in the United States earning $50,875 annually, members of Congress make 3.4 times more than the average American.

2.  Why do you claim that spending will be cut when estimated show that discretionary spending will be $1 trillion in 2012 and $1.2 trillion in 2021? According to CATO, The ‘cuts’ in the deal are only cuts from the CBO ‘baseline,’ which is a Washington construct of ever-rising spending. And even these ‘cuts’ from the baseline include $156 billion of interest savings, which are imaginary because the underlying cuts are imaginary.  No program or agency terminations are identified in the deal. None of the vast armada of federal subsidies are targeted for elimination.”

3.  Is there anything to prevent the new “super committee” from raising taxes? The strangest thing about this deal is the “super committee.”  According to The Hill, “The deal would set up a select 12-member bicameral committee to put together another $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction package that must be reported to Congress by Thanksgiving and which Congress must approve by Christmas. Committee deadlock or congressional failure to act on the recommendations would trigger $1.2 trillion, across-the-board spending cuts divided evenly between defense and non-defense spending.”  Unfortunately, this does not preclude tax increase as a way to reduce the deficit.

If you have an opportunity to ask these questions, TPA would like to see the responses by sending your e-mails here.  And, we may just post some of the more “interesting” answers.