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Government Salary / Congress & Senate Salaries

Updated on December 12, 2013

Sometimes it feels like politicians are just playing games to win elections, power and publicity. A lot like professional athletes, these professional politicians are getting huge paychecks. I do believe that we need professional politicians in today’s world, but I also feel that they are still public servants. They need to start getting behind the people they are supposed to represent and not the donors who have a narrow self interest. While the bureaucrats are looking into ways to cut the budget and government jobs I decided to look at how much they are making.

Benjamin Franklin originally proposed elected government officials should not be paid, but this idea was ultimately rejected. At first Congress was only paid a daily per diem while in session. For a short time, Dec. 1815 to March 1817, they did receive a year salary. By 1855 members were given annual salaries.

Congress and Senate Salaries
Congress and Senate Salaries | Source

In 2013 House and Senate members made $174,000 a year, while the Majority and Minority Leaders make $193,000 and the Speaker of the House makes a whopping $223,500. Imagine how many government jobs would not have to be lost if they all took a pay cut. Even a 10% pay cut would still keep them at a six-figure salary. Congress does not vote to give themselves a raise. What they do vote on is if they want to reject their automatic cost of living increase. Individual members can refuse their pay increase and many have chosen to do this over the years. But that raises the question of is that a solution or a publicity tool for them to wield. Back in 1990 Congressional pay was 98,400. I doubt many Americans have had their pay almost double in the last 20 years. In fact a report by Annalyn Censky for CNN Money said that the average American made about $33,400 (adjusted for inflation) in 1988 and in 2008 the average American’s income was $33,000. That will make you stop and think.

To the government's credit, they have not had a pay increase since 2009. However, when there is a government shutdown, these elected officials still get a paycheck, while many other federal employees are forced to stop working. At the current minimum wage salary, a full-time employee only makes around $15,000 a year. It’s clear that one of these salaries has more cushioning to lose a few days of pay.

Capitol Building
Capitol Building | Source

The site had a great chart on the different salaries for the executive, legislature and judicial branch of our government over the years. If enough people are aware of what our elected officials are making maybe they will think about where salary cuts can be made before firing teachers, emergency responders, other government employees.


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