Sunday, May 11, 2014

Congressional Perks That Could Feed & Cloth Millions

Washington D.C. (S2N Media) Members of Congress have a monthly allowance equating to almost a half million dollars annually that covers the lease on their cars. Yes, some of those nice lawmakers that deny out of work people benefits and hungry people assistance are paying for their luxury vehicles with those very people's tax dollars.

In early May 2014, members of Congress voted against giving themselves a bump in pay. A move like that would have been too blatant. Then too seeing as how most members of Congress are millionaires, they do not need a pay raise anyway. Furthermore, considering their

One Republican lawmaker has attempted to do away with this rubbing of salt in the wound perk.

Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) submitted an amendment to prohibit House lawmakers from using (abusing?) their office budgets for car payments, but it fell short by about 20 votes. Nice try Mr. Nugent but I could have told you your fellow lawmakers would shoot that one down.

Jamie Dupree, a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has done some math on this issue. He found that 63 lawmakers spend altogether $38,444.20 a month on car leases, $610.23 a month per lawmaker. This got me to thinking about all the things a poor single Mom or unemployed Dad could do with $610.00.

The allotment is supposed to support "business only" use of the vehicles. Yeah right. I you and your illiterate cousin know better than that. My question is why members of Congress cannot simply be assigned "official" government vehicles from the motor pool. I feel a lot of blank stares from Congress. The President's vehicles are from a motor pool aren't they? So why should Congress get the option to subsidize the high-end vehicle of their choice with taxpayers money? Please utilize the comment section below to tell me why.

Congressional perks have come under scrutiny before. Some appear to be borderline ethic violations while some others could fall under the headings of straight out kickbacks.

Here are some I know I would like to have but will never be granted.

Free Airport Parking

Before the Airport Authority controlled Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport in the Washington, D.C., area, the federal government operated them. When the Airport Authority took over in 1987, as a courtesy, it kept 92 combined spots reserved between both airports for members of Congress.

Free Flights

Airports really love Congress members. First free parking and now free flying. While not every flight is free for members of Congress, a vast majority of flights between their home states and Washington, D.C., are funded with taxpayer money. Lawmakers also benefit from the ability to book themselves on multiple flights without being charged multiple times because of their very liquid schedules.

Liberal Liberal Leave and Vacation

According to the congressional calendar released in late 2012, there were 126 congressional sessions on the docket without a single five-day workweek, leaving members of Congress with 239 days to work outside of Congress. They get weekend off by default. In 2012, Congress had the 236 days to be off. It's 365 days in a year so in 2012 Congress worked 129 days. With an annual salary of $174,000.00 annually, that works out to be about $1,333.00 a day. That's nice work if you can get it.

Obamacare Granted Subsidies

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, you and me are required to have health insurance or face a penalty that increases each year through 2016. Those of us earning less than four times the annual poverty level (about $46,000) or families earning less than four times the poverty level (close to $92,000), are eligible to receive a partial or full subsidy on our health insurance through Obamacare's health exchanges. Congress, however, also benefits from a large portion of its health insurance being subsidized by Mr. & Ms John Q. Public on Obamacare's health exchanges despite making more than four times the poverty level. This is further proof that GOP members cannot hate Obamacare as much as they say. They just hate the author of it.

Insider Trading Information 

Not too long ago, Congress passed an insider trading law making it illegal for them to profit on inside information they knew by passing certain laws. The public fell for the banana in the tailpipe crediting Congress with having enough scruples to police itself. Silently, and even without hardly any media coverage, they repealed that law a few months later.

I could be writing this post all day if I listed all the perks and amenities partaken by Congress members. I am not suggesting our lawmakers should not take advantage of some perks of their trade. I would if I were a Congressperson. I would also have a conscience that would prevail at some point. Decades ago, members of Congress would rent from boarding houses. Yikes! John Boehner in a boarding house? That is not such a bad idea. It might snap him into the realities of the real world taxpayer.

Speaking of Mr Boehner in the context of beeing well heeled. While in office, the Ohio Republican will get the top annual salary in Congress: $223,500. His Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D – Nev., and other congressional leaders are paid much less, $193,400 per year. The House speaker’s taxpayer-funded perks don’t stop when he leaves office. Like all members of Congress who have held office for at least five years – Boehner has been in the House since 1991 – he is entitled to a generous pension.

When Boehner leaves office he already has a well paying conculting job waiting for him courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. He will be paid up to $1 million per year for up to five years  to “facilitate the administration, settlement and conclusion of matters pertaining to or arising out of” his tenure as speaker of the House, according to a little known law. Yes, and this guy likes holding out on poor and destitute people.

In regards to accommodations related to work; members of today's Congress should only be subsidized for rental properties in or around Washington DC and only while Congress is in session. All have permanent homes and subsidized travel accommodation to get there if need be when they are not working. These men and women are public servants yet financed as if they were Fortune 500 CEOs while many of the folks they represent live like paupers. That contrast alone creates dissension between some constituents and their representatives.

A reexamining of some of the perks and freebies that Congress members have access to is certainly overdue. I think that Congress men and women should be treated as all Americans. Their salaries should be performance based. The level of performance should evaluated quarterly by the people they represent. On the job perks should be determined by the taxpayers also. When they leave office they should leave with the same retirement options as the rest of us. At any rate this practice of Congress policing itself needs to be hooked, hog tied, and collared.

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