Really interesting article in the WSJ Online this week about Congressional staff pay bonuses.
It seems that many members of Congress- especially the ones who lost their seats last fall- gave the remainder of their office budgets out as pay bonuses to their employees- rather than return it to the federal coffers.
While Congress has been flaying companies for giving out bonuses while on the government dole, lawmakers have a longstanding tradition of rewarding their own employees with extra cash -- also courtesy of taxpayers.
Total end-of-year bonuses paid to congressional staffers are tiny compared with the $165 million recently showered on executives of American International Group Inc., which is being propped up by billions of dollars of U.S. government subsidies. But Capitol Hill bonuses provide a notable counterpoint to the populist rhetoric and sound bites emanating from Washington these past weeks.
For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know what I think about pay bonuses for government employees-- if you want bonuses go work in the private sector. Government employees enjoy far greater job security, regular raises, more time-off and better benefits than most private-sector employees- for that they should be willing to forgo "bonuses".
Thelma Drake, a Republican, gave about $40,000 in extra compensation to about a dozen aides after losing her Virginia seat. Mrs. Drake said the payments were a form of severance to "good staff members who worked their hearts out and who were about to lose their jobs."
Uh, Ms. Drake- there are lots of people working their hearts out- they don't typically get performance bonuses before the door hits them on the way out...most people working for politicians realize the party's over when their candidate loses. It's part of the job.
Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California handed out the largest payments, giving $14,000 apiece to three aides. Spokeswoman Adrienne Elrod said her boss is "proud of the bonuses she is able to give."
$14,000- not bad..."she is able to give"? You mean that the taxpayers are able to give.
Those in Congress also have the ability to return the cash too and some do...
In 2008, some lawmakers returned excess cash to the government, including Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican (who also gave some bonuses) and Rep. Tim Walz, a Minnesota Democrat. Meredith Salsbery, a spokeswoman for Mr. Walz, said aides are asked to be "thrifty and conscious of taxpayer dollars" and that Mr. Walz "knows the power of setting a good example."
I'm no fan of Tim Walz and was a big supporter of his opponent, Brian Davis, but I commend Walz on this decision.
It seems odd that they should have to "zero-out" their Congressional accounts at year-end. Our Representatives should have to look in a mirror every day and repeat this mantra "It's not my money, It's not my money, It's not my money". The problem crosses party lines and demonstrates of how out-of-touch government is with the real world.