If you answered "no" to any of the above, guess what, buckos? You're not in Congress.
By a 244-181 vote in June, our Congress critters quietly hiked their own pay, putting them in an income class that exceeds 97 percent of American households. And guess what? Unlike us riff-raff, their pay raise is automatic! Deserve it or not, need it or not, they get this annual boost, unless they choose not to accept it. And, golly, guess what again? They rarely choose to say no!
It works like this. The pay hike is automatically awarded unless lawmakers vote to block it with an obscure procedural move. This move never succeeds because the leaders of both parties agree in advance that they'll deliver the majority of their members to vote to accept the money. Imagine having your arm twisted to accept a pay raise! That's an easy twist.
Worse than the raise -- which comes when the majority of Americans are falling behind economically -- are the excuses of the congressional leaders. They say the big bucks are necessary to retain experienced lawmakers. Yeah... experienced at raising their own pay, which they've done for seven of the past 10 years. And if you want to hear a truly sad tale, try this: members wail that they have to meet with lobbyists who are paid far more than they are, so they need to narrow the gap to save face.
Instead of saving congressional face, how about we outlaw high-dollar lobbyists, pay Congress members the median income of all Americans, put the members in group housing in Washington, provide public financing of congressional campaigns... and eliminate automatic pay raises? Then Congress might come closer to representing the real America.
For more nuggets of wisdom from America's No. 1 populist, check out jimhightower.com.