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February 9, 2009 - 1:05pm

Chris Lee opposes automatic Congressional pay raise

posted by Philip Anselmo in congress, politics, Chris Lee, Republican.

From the Office of Rep. Chris Lee:

Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) today appeared at the Rochester Federal Building to announce that he has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calling for action on bipartisan legislation to stop the automatic pay raise members of Congress are scheduled to receive next year. The lawmaker says foregoing the pay increase would help make Washington more accountable to Western New York taxpayers.

“After a month in Congress, I have seen firsthand the critical need for openness and accountability in Washington,” Congressman Lee said. “During these tough economic times, when workers are foregoing wage increases to keep their jobs, Congress should not grant itself a pay raise. Washington should do more with less, just as Western New Yorkers always have.”
 
On his first day in office, Congressman Lee became a co-sponsor of H.R. 156, the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act, which would block the pay raise Members of Congress are scheduled to automatically receive next year. H.R. 156, which is sponsored by Congressman Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), has gained more than 100 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors, and is endorsed by leading taxpayer and government watchdog groups. The legislation is currently pending in the House Administration and Oversight & Government Reform committees. (Click HERE to read statements from leading taxpayer and government watchdog groups on the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act.)

Congressman Lee added, “Before Congress, my experience was solely in the private sector. When tough times came, we fought to save jobs and did not accept pay raises. This is an opportunity for Washington to set a similar example for public officials in every level of government.”

Click here to download the letter Lee sent to House Speaker Pelosi.

Judith Hunter
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It's all well and good for Congressman Lee to reject a salary increase he doesn't need. Most of Congress probably doesn't need it either. However, this is mere grandstanding. This won't create a single job for our district, and jobs are what we need. Yet Congressman Lee felt it was more important to toe the line set by his Republican masters than to serve the needs of his district by voting for the stimulus bill. Despite the vast amounts of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) that Lee and his GOP colleagues keep throwing up there, the fact remains that, by definition, spending IS stimulus. And spending on things like food stamps and infrastructure does a far more effective job at pumping money into our limping economy than Mr. Lee's favored tax cuts. A high proportion of that money is either saved or used to pay down debt. While those are good for individuals (and the GOP is all about me vs. we), those are truly ineffective at boosting the economy. Given that Mr. Lee is all over the press saying how every dollar should count, perhaps he needs a refresher course in basic economics.
Andrew Erbell
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Agreed. Could you point out the specific page of any Basic Economics Textbook where borrowing even more money is advocated when you are already horrendously over your head in debt?
Lori Ann Santini
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Mr Erbell, I coudn't agree with you more. I think we have found common ground. I am not a fan of all the fluff in the stimulus package. I am against putting my little children and my grandson into debt. I realize that it probably has to be done on some level but I/we don't have to like it. By the way, will there be better accounting of where this money is going vs the bank bailout? If not then give me a couple thousand. My kids want to go to Disney. That's a little less offensive to the mind then bankers going on spa retreats and getting big bonuses at the end of 2008.
Judith Hunter
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If there were any other way to pump up the economy without further spending (and, regrettably, borrowing, thanks to the deficit-producing policies of the last several years), I would be all for it. But the Fed has cut rates as far as it is possible to go -- it is up against the zero limit -- and so government spending is the only option we have. Demand in the American economy has fallen off by literally trillions of dollars a year, and this stimulus package is probably too small, not too big. The other point is that the stimulus package is not the same thing as the bank bailout. Apples and oranges. The bonuses are unconscionable, but they are completely disconnected from this stimulus bill. And, yes, there will be far greater transparency, including posting all spending on the internet so you can check it out for yourself.
Adama Brown
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Andrew, in terms of understanding the recovery plan, I'd recommend the works of Nobel Prize winner in Economics Paul Krugman. He's one of the few who's been sounding the alarm bells for a long time on this sort of thing, and published a book back in 2003 saying that the economic policies the Bush administration put in place--particularly deficit spending--were bound to create a major economic meltdown sooner or later. He's also been loudly opining in any newspaper that will carry him about the need for a larger stimulus bill, possibly as large as $1.8 trillion. Lori, I don't think anyone is really "in favor" of deficit spending, but at this point we don't have a choice. The economy can't be allowed to continue in this hole, and as Judith pointed out tax cuts tend to be saved rather than promoting the economic recovery that leads to more growth. On the banks, the good news is that they are going to be attaching stricter requirements to new recipients in the banking business, including probably that half-million-a-year salary cap.
John Roach
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Judith, Where will the money for this come from? George Bush spent money left and right and it did nothing. The Congressional Budget Office said the tax cut he had passed brought more money into the treasury, but then he and the Congress (both parties) went on a spending spree, and placed us so far in debt, our children will have to have massive tax increases to pay it off. Of course by then, the ones in office now, having bought your vote with give aways, will have retired. This plan is just Bush on steriods. We will have to get the money from China or just print it which will cause inflation worse than under Jimmy Carter. Inflation has already started and it could take off big time when this bill is passed. If you are going to spend, then at least spend it on jobs. Build and fix roads and bridges, etc. Your example of spending more on Food Stamps does not creat one new job. It is well intentioned, but does not help. If it did, then after over 30 years of Food Stamp spending, we would all be employed. They help people, yes, but creat jobs, no. And it's jobs people want. Lee's comments mean nothing. The pay raise will go through and we all know it. If he gives it away, then we can take him at his word.
Adama Brown
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John, Bush spent money primarily on tax cuts for people who are already wealthy and on multi-billion dollar expenditures into big corporations for military and mercenary contracts. This plan spends mainly on construction, direct incentives for job creation, and new development. As to the food stamp example, it does employ people: growing, processing, and packaging food. Economists have done the numbers, and ranked various forms of government expenditures by how much new money they generate for the economy. One dollar spent on food stamps generates about $1.20. Infrastructure, which is also big in the bill, results in about $1.80 for every dollar spent.
Andrew Erbell
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Why would you take business advice from someone who has spent almost his entire adult life in the insulated world of college academia, Nobel Laureate or not? Running a successful business for over two decades and dealing with numerous other business people with vastly more experience than that gives me plenty of first-hand knowledge of what will work or not. For all of their good intentions, these government programs are only going to prolong the problem. The bank bailouts were a really bad idea, and this latest version is vastly worse. Aside from overseeing the military, can you name one thing the Federal Government does well? Social Security is nothing but a giant pyramid scheme in itself. For this situation to truly be corrected, it needs to sort itself out in the private sector without intervention from the government. As far as the $500,000 salary cap goes, most people like that idea because it makes them "feel good". I disagree with it on principle and heard a great analogy on the radio while driving Saturday back from Springville why it's a bad idea. You just bought the Buffalo Bills (insert whatever sports team you want here). You can only pay your starting quarterback $500,000. The teams that aren't having problems can pay their quarterback whatever the market will bear. What quality of a player do you think you'll be able to sign and how many games do you think you're going to win with those restrictions placed upon you?
John Roach
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Adama, I am not against food stamps, but by your logic, after more than 30 years of them, we should be doing well. As for Bush, Obama the other night said just spend. That's what Bush did. Spend, spend and then spend more. By the way, except for the Iraq War and at election time, a lot of Dems were also on board with most of the spending. Both political parties want to buy our vote. And the economists all agree, this Obama plan will cost $300,000 for each of the 4 million jobs saved or created. I'd rather he just send me a check for my share.
Philip Anselmo
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John: Lee will give the money to charity, if the raise goes through. He talked about that recently on a radio program with Kevin Hardwick... Professor Hardwick: “I read something about you in the Buffalo News, and I was very impressed, you’re opposing the ray raise. Not only are you opposing the pay raise, you’re saying, ‘I won’t take it, I’ll give the money to charity.’” Congressman Lee: “Correct. … The first day on the job, there was an opportunity to co-sponsor a bill, H.R. 156, which will stop the automatic pay raise by Congress. The problem is, in the business world, there was twice where I did not take a pay increase when we had tough economic times in our company. This is one of the worst of times, for Congress not to go and set an example … I’m hopeful that we’ll get [Speaker] Pelosi to make an up-or-down vote… Either way, if the bill doesn’t get passed, I’m still going to donate my money to charity.”
Gabor Deutsch
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I think there is more to the outcome of the Obama Plan. "And the economists all agree, this Obama plan will cost $300,000 for each of the 4 million jobs saved or created. I'd rather he just send me a check for my share". Most economists never really agree unless they are getting paid for it. The big factor that your missing is that the Obama Package is looking to a long term recovery when it comes to creating jobs. I think you missed the part where most economists agree that the stimulus rebate of giving people the extra money last year was a flop. Most people that actually received it just paid bills, didnt get a chance to save it, and damned sure werent going to invest it. 300,000 for 4 million jobs saved may have an average of 3 million dollars per 1 job saved that gets pumped into the economy in a few years, not to mention creating more jobs as consumer confidence rises. I agree with the person that posted about foodstamp program being a factor in stabilizing a part of the economy. Its federally funded and better controlled than ever. It supports jobs,retailers,farmers,etc. I do agree that the first stimulus or bailout was messed up. Now the most important thing is to do it right this time and do it quick.
Gabor Deutsch
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I think the pay raise doesnt matter either way. Actually anyone in Politics right now would be foolish not to refuse or give away a pay increase, its an instant brownie point towards all the people that are suffering right now and actually voted for them. A pay raise for them is like a bag of salad i had to throw away because it went bad. CHUMP CHANGE !
John Roach
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Gabor, You might be right, but if you divide up the money obama is going to spend, by the 4 million jobs he said will either be saved or created, it comes out to about $300,000. And a lot of that money we know will not go to jobs, but social spending. Even if it's 50-50 jobs and social spending, it's $300,000 from Obama said. I also see very little real control of the money this time either. I would like that in cash as I think the check might bounce.
Gabor Deutsch
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John, Social spending is throwing a small bone quick to the people in the hopes for more. There are many other factors dragging our economy down but the importance of creating jobs definately needs to be addressed properly. This real "bail out" has three steps. First they pumped money to failing Corporations,banks,special interests,etc. Second they will pump more money to stabilize a long term social package disguises as jobs but mainly temporary programs to ease people struggling. Third will come when they pump money to new big business or the older big business corporations that have survived or taken over the smaller ones. Thus back to full circle in the capitalist run economy.
Adama Brown
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John, your response is a non-sequitur. It doesn't matter how long food stamps have been around, what we're talking about is that it generates more economic activity than it costs. It's like insulating your house: you save money on heating, but it doesn't singlehandedly pay for your entire standard of living. Simple math knocks down the $300,000 figure: even if you did straight division, it's about $200,000, and then you're only counting the jobs which are supposed to be directly created or saved, nothing about the value of rescuing the economy. Nor does it take into account the value of what we're getting for that money in terms of new construction and investments, or the fact that if you just dumped all that money on the public it would mean a considerable amount of inflation. And last but not least, once again sending money directly to people doesn't have a stimulative effect. If the government simply cut everybody a check for $2,550, it would get saved or used to pay down debt. Great for you personally, bad for the economy as a whole.
John Roach
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Admana, This is not about being agaisnt the bail out. If done right I think it might help. My Point is that social spending does not create jobs. It never has and will not this time either. And "just spending" does not work either. We have had the “War on Poverty” and the “Great Society” for decades. They may or not have really helped some people(subject for another debate,maybe on the forum section) but they do not create jobs. Spending money on actual construction jobs will help. Build roads, do bridge repair, build power plants, repair sidewalks, and more. There is enough real work that could be done, but this bill does not put all the money there. Money for Honey Bee insurance? The National Endowment of the Arts? The list goes on and on. You may think they are worthy, like Food Stamps, but they do not create jobs, they just don’t. The dollar amount I used for the $300,000 came from the Congressional Budget Office (COB). You may be right, but I’ll go with the COB. Problem is nobody has a real idea how much this will cost, so one number is as good as another. One new problem nobody saw. It is has now been reported that some bail out money was used by a company/coporation to bail out one of it's business in Brazil. Turns out, many of the companies and banks (Generla Motors as an example) have many plants or operations overseas. When you bail GM out, you bail out all the jobs they moved out of the US. How do you stop that, without killing the company also?
Russ Stresing
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For once, John is right. He's correctly put his confidence in what the CBO says: From Fox Business: "-- The economic stimulus bill headed for a vote in the House on Wednesday would give a "substantial boost" to the U.S. economy, the director of the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee on Tuesday that the bill would result in increased output of between 1.3% and 3.6% at the end of this year. Without fiscal policy changes, said Elmendorf, the economy would contract more sharply in 2009 than it did in 2008." http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/industrials/house-bi...
Robert Harding
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Judith, I agree with all your points except the one that this is grandstanding by Lee. While this is a minor issue, it is also a bipartisan one. Congressman Eric Massa has also been coming out strongly against the congressional pay raise. In fact, Massa has just as many press releases on the subject as Lee. What I find interesting is that Lee, in today's Buffalo News, said that he was disappointed that the Senate cut out funding for Western New York even though he opposed the stimulus package to begin with.
Robert Harding
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John, Just one thing I wanted to point out that you said a few comments ago: "This is not about being agaisnt the bail out. If done right I think it might help." The economic stimulus package is not a bailout. It is an investment in our economy by the government. The economic stimulus package would create jobs, provide investments in key areas like education, health care and infrastructure and provide necessary aid to states that need it (including New York). The bailout is the free money the banks got to stay afloat. The banks have to pay that money back, but the first $350 billion came without any oversight and without any accountability. The economic stimulus package would be different. There would be accountability and thanks to a website that will be created once the package is passed, you will be able to track every dollar that is spent.
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Because freezing congressional pay would only save $2.5 million (roughly 1 cent per taxpayer), it's only natural that this discussion quickly turned to the real money of $800-$900 billion in the stimulus bill. Nonetheless, I would like to return for a moment to the Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act to argue its importance from another perspective. I strongly believe that the central cause of the current financial crisis, as well as so many other national problems, is that the congressional leadership of both parties is almost totally preoccupied with winning elections. The result is that legislative and oversight activities have taken a back seat to fund-raising, speech-making, and making the rounds of talk shows. And when they do finally get around to doing what we elect them to do, far too much of their time and energy is spent trying to satisfy the demands of the special interests they rely upon for support. So that's why I attach importance to this pay freeze legislation, which is essentially a bipartisan rebellion by mavericks and younger members of Congress. If it succeeds, it will be a firm reminder to the leadership of both parties that the needs of our country as a whole should always be of paramount importance. And if it fails, it will reinforce their apparent belief that their primary duties are to demonize opponents and win elections. Let's step back to get some perspective for a moment. Isn't it absolutely ridiculous that congressional leaders never took action to prevent this year's $4,700 pay raise from taking place, especially since they were jumping all over the bonuses given out on Wall Street? And isn't it even more ridiculous that not a single one of them is lifting a finger to block next year's pay raise --- which is all this legislation really does? While it's certainly true that they need to set priorities and have a lot of more important things to deal with, that's an extremely weak defense. After all, they have managed to find the time to do such things as spend 40 minutes debating and passing a resolution, "Commending the University of Florida Gators for winning the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game." I could go on and on, but I rest my case for now. If anyone else agrees that freezing congressional pay is more than just a symbolic gesture, then please consider signing the online petition I initiated at www.payfreeze.org. The goal is to raise the number of the bill's official supporters to a majority of 218, which is normally enough to pressure reluctant party leaders into allowing legislation to be debated and voted on.

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