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July 25, 2007

Is Congress Paid Too Much?

In a capitalist society, money is an important part of almost every aspect of our lives. In America, we don't do too bad, despite the increasing gap between rich and poor.

The median income for Americans over the age of 25 is about $32,000. Of course, those numbers increase with higher levels of education. The median income for full-time employees with a Bachelor's degree or higher is $56,000. This is more than enough money for a single to live off of, but still congress gets paid much more.

In 1815, Congress began getting paid an annual salary of $1,500. Before that they were paid $6 per session. To complicate things Congress went back to the per session pay in 1817, but this time it was $8 per session. In 1855, Congress went back to getting paid an annual salary, this time at $3,000 (about $65,000 in today's money). Since then they have been getting paid more than then average educated US citizen is paid currently, each year. The question I put forth is, do they really deserve to be paid as much as they are?

This year (2007), each normal Congress member will be paid $168,000. The median income for persons over the age of 25 is about $32,000. People over the age of 25 that work full-time and have at least a Bachelor's degree earn a median income of $56,000. Even the highest paid group of full-time workers, those with professional degrees, only earn a median income of $100,000. So does it still seem fair that they earn as much as they do?

There are 251 business days in a normal year (accounting for federal holidays). Assuming Congress members worked each of those days, which they don't due to their lucrative vacation package, they are making $669 a day in salary alone. At the same time, educated Americans are earning $223 a day. Should educated Americans make only 33% of what Congress does?

I am not saying being a member of Congress is easy. I probably wouldn't be very good representative myself. It takes quite a bit of hard work to get to that level of politics. But being a member of Congress should never be about the money, it should be about serving one's country. They should be willing to work for a comfortable pay, but not an excessive one. The ultimate question is should Congress get paid as though they are representing us, or as though they are representing an elite pay grade of society.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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