Framing the Dialogue

I Am From the Government and I Am Here to Help – Part 4

March 15, 2009 Update – Here we go again.  The US House and Senate have graciously, no generously agreed to give up thier pay raise.  Lawmakers were knocking each other over to get “mic” time to show their great leadership.  Unfortunately, the raise that they agreed was not due until 2010.  They will accept the raise this year.  This is a quote from Bloomberg News (Sorry, but I could not find the link):

“Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, accused Vitter of ‘playing politics’ with his proposal (to eliminate all congressional pay raises).  Inouye said, “Most Americans have a healthy understanding of the difference between a pay raise and a pay adjustment based on inflation.” 

You decide whether these folks are just out of touch or just arogant.  I lean toward the later assessment.

March 10, 2009 Update – This may turn out to be the “most updated” posting.  In April, 2007 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced, with great fanfare, that “The House must lead by example and it is time for Congress to act on its own carbon footprint.”  Less than two years later a statement was quietly issued shelving the plan.  It seems that becoming carbon neutral is too difficult and costly to achieve…for them.  We are going to have to do it, but that is different.

February 16, 2009 Update – It took less than a week to find another whopper example of “Do As I Say.”  It seems that the governor of the great state of New York gave pay raises to some staffers AFTER he had imposed pay and hiring freezes for state employees.  Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Part 4 – Do As I Say (Not As I Do)

I often find it funny (funny-odd, not funny-haha) how many folks in government want to prescribe our actions.  No more smoking in public places, buildings, restaurants and soon to come…your house.  I am not a smoker and am not affected by these stipulations, but once Big Brother wiggles into our lives, it is damn near impossible to wrench him out.

There has been a great deal of news about our challenging economic times.  We all are being told that we will feel some pain.  Our glorious legislature is now going to prescribe compensation limits for executives of companies that took TARP (“Troubled  Asset Relief Program”).  This is hot off the heals of prominent officials complaining about corporate jets and fancy junkets.

That is what they say.  Unfortunately it does not match what they did.  In early February, during one of the most challenging economic times of our generation, it seems that congressional democrats went on their own junket.  They stayed at the luxurious Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, Virginia.  You can bet that the cost did not come out of their pockets.  The best that we could hope for was that their campaign funds paid the bill. 

Do as I say, not as I do! 

The area around Pittsburgh, Pa is dominated by Democrat politics.  The two political leaders made news recently by proposing campaign finance limits.  Many groups, including the League of Women Voters, praised this.  It was eventually pointed out that their proposed limits are not all that stringent.  Too late, however, they already got the good press. 

The unmentioned story was that both politicians already have formidable campaign war chests. 

Do as I say, not as I do!

Staying within Pennsylvania, we have been hearing for months about the budget deficit.  All state agencies have had a hiring freeze for six or more months.  Agencies are unable to hire from the outside, but can hire from within.  If you can attract an employee from another part of your agency, you may fill positions. 
This cannibalism is wreaking havoc on some agencies.  The hiring freeze did not, however, hinder Gov. Rendell from hiring a political ally into a newly created, high-paying job at a state agency. 

Do as I say, not as I do!

My next example surrounds reports that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi requested a rather large private/military jet to transport herself, staff, and family between Washington and her home in California. 
Reports vary about who requested the jet, but she does have the use of a taxpayer-funded private jet for her travels. 

Prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Speaker traveled on commercial jets.  Maybe since Pelosi believes is behind planned reductions in military spending, she will give up her perk and travel the friendly skies like the rest of us? 

Do as I say, not as I do!

Those of us who are from the Pittsburgh area certainly enjoyed the big game on February 1, 2009.  Our Pittsburgh Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl.  Joining the many Pittsburghers attending the game in was Pittsburgh’s mayor, Allegheny County Chief Executive (County in which Pittsburgh is located), and Pennsylvania’s Governor. 

A colleague of mine was fortunate enough to score some tickets and attend the game.  His travel plans included driving to a neighboring state to get cheaper plane fares and staying 45 minutes outside of Tampa to get cheaper hotel rates.  Not counting the tickets, it was still going to cost him over $2,000 for him and his wife.  He paid for the trip himself.  This is not the case for our political leaders who used campaign money to pay for their vacation.  No word on how the Governor paid for his trip. 

Do as I say, Not as I do.

Another example deals with health care and retirement benefits.  I am not sure why more reporters ignore the perks that our elected officials get.  The National Taxpayers Union estimates that upon retirement, congressional retirement compensation packages can be 2-3 times higher than the private sector. 

Having worked at a Pennsylvania State agency, we were compelled to “contribute” nearly 7% of our salary towards our retirement plan.  Retirement benefits are determined by multiplying the years of service by a factor (it is around 2.25%).  Elected officials were not satisfied and voted themselves a multiplier of 5%.  They do not pay a higher percentage of their salaries into the fund, they just get more out.

Their health care plan has been described as the Rolls Royce of health plans.  Read more here. 

Do as I say, not as I do!

In the final insult, Congress failed to act to prevent their automatic pay raise in January 2009.  I guess that they were too busy trying to spend a trillion dollars of tax money.  In their defense, a bill is being circulated to stop their automatic raise in 2010. 

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO!

As I sat to write this post, I had two or three examples to support my theory.  As I wrote, I remembered more and more and more examples.  I finally had to give myself a limit.

Do as I say, not as I do!

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