Congress Does It Again

Just when you thought that Enron, WorldCom, and all the other corporate jerryriggers of the financial system had plummed the depths of personal greed ... along comes Congress.

In a tricky maneuver that would make an Arthur Anderson executive envious, the House of Representatives quietly passed H.R. 448, which reads: "At any time after the adoption of this resolution, the speaker may, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the house resolved into the committee of the whole." Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo, and shazaam! What this bit of gobbledegook did was to raise Congress' pay by $5,000 each, lifting them to $155,000 a year.

Here's the trick. In 1989, Congress awarded itself an annual cost-of-living pay increase, making it part of the appropriation bill for the treasury department. This pay hike is automatic, unless some member offers an amendment to delete it, which then requires a direct up-or-down vote on accepting the salary boost. Such a vote is politically messy, especially in election years, hence, H.R. 448. Under this procedural move, no amendments can be offered to the treasury department's funding bill.

In other words, this sneaky resolution says to members: "No, you can't say no to a pay raise." I bet you wish you could get a deal like that!

But Dick Armey, the Republican majority leader who helped rig the system with H.R. 448, is indignant that anyone would criticize the move: "The Congress didn't vote themselves a pay raise," he explains. "What Congress did was not vote away their diminished cost-of-living increase. We just simply did not deny ourselves that normal increase in our cost of living that every other worker in America not only expects, but insists upon."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... What a bozo! Either these guys are completely clueless ... or they think we're stupid.


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