Saturday, November 11, 2006

$88,382,000 a year--let's get our money's worth

As we enter legislative year 2007, a couple of numbers are worth repeating:

#1: $88,382,000.  That's how much the salaries of each member of Congress and Senate cost the American people per year (each Congressman and Senator makes $165,200 a year).

#2: 72.  That's the number of days spent by the 2006 Congress actually legislating and doing the business of the People of the United States.

That 72 days was the shortest legislative work year in TWENTY YEARS.  To quote OMB Watch:

In 2006, the leadership has decided to devote 72 days, or a little over two months, to official legislative business. When Mondays and Fridays are included in this total (voting generally only takes place Tuesday through Thursday), this number rises to 125 days. Since 1985, Congress has allocated an average of 152 days per session (including Mondays and Fridays) to legislative work.

Now, you might say, it was a tough election year.  But it's not just this year; it's pretty much this whole Republican government:

The election notwithstanding, Congress, it seems, spends too little time actually in session and it shows. In 2000, the House and Senate completed only two appropriations bills by the Oct. 1 deadline. In 2002, no bill was completed on time, and Congress worked through February--almost halfway into the new fiscal year - finishing appropriations work only after passing 12 continuing resolutions to keep the government afloat.

Now, given that it was a Republican Congress, I suppose that we can be thankful that we got a reprieve.  After all, every day they weren't in session was a day they couldn't attempt to remove another civil liberty, give another tax break to the wealthy, cut another needed social program, or authorize another war.

But the people's business needs doing.  It needed doing yesterday.  And it needs a government that's WORTH the $88,382,000 that we spend on it every year in the Legislative.  That's a pretty high collective salary, after all.

We need Executive oversight.

We need economic reforms to help WAGE-EARNERS and the middle class.

We need healthcare reforms leading to universal coverage.

We need campaign finance reform, leading to some sort of eventual public financing.

We need redistricting reform.

We need investigations into ongoing illegal activity.

We need legislation to reduce emissions leading to global warming.

We need serious reality-based planning to get our troops out of Iraq with minimal damage to the region.

And so much more.  More, in fact, than any one Congress could possibly achieve after working a full 365 days a year--even without a hostile President and thin majorities.


And so, as we talk about keeping our new Democratic Congress' feet to the fire in terms of policy, let's also make sure that they actually show up to work now that the good guys are in charge.

Goodness knows the country needs help.  And goodness knows we pay enough for it.


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