Lawmakers Reward Their Aides With Bonuses

While Congress has been flaying companies for giving out bonuses while on the government dole, lawmakers have a longstanding tradition of rewarding their own employees with extra cash -- also courtesy of taxpayers.

Capitol Hill bonuses in 2008 were among the highest in years, according to LegiStorm, an organization that tracks payroll data. The average House aide earned 17% more in the fourth quarter of the year, when the bonuses were paid, than in previous quarters, according to the data. That was the highest jump in the eight years LegiStorm has compiled payroll information.

Total end-of-year bonuses paid to congressional staffers are tiny compared with the $165 million recently showered on executives of
American International Group Inc., which is being propped up by billions of dollars of U.S. government subsidies. But Capitol Hill bonuses provide a notable counterpoint to the populist rhetoric and sound bites emanating from Washington these past weeks.

Last year alone, more than 200 House lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, awarded bonuses totaling $9.1 million to more than 2,000 staff members, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of office-disbursement forms. The money comes out of taxpayer-funded office budgets, and is surplus cash that would otherwise be forfeited if not spent.
Payments ranged from a few hundred dollars to $14,000. Lawmakers, at their own discretion, gave the money to chiefs of staff, assistants, computer technicians, and more than 100 aides who earned salaries of more than $100,000 a year.


Personally I don't care that these aides received bonuses, in fact, I didn't care that AIG execs received bonuses either. Did they deserve them? Not really, their company tanked. But were they contractually owed them? Yes. Furthermore, the Government had no right to interfere with private business practices, and to use tax legislation as punishment. But back to the staffer bonuses. Like I said, I don't mind the bonuses, under normal circumstances, but given the recent hoopla, I do mind; it is hypocritical, and sends a very mixed message.

The other problem I have is with the WSJ journal article cited above. The title of the article is Lawmakers Have Long Rewarded Their Aides With Bonuses. The whole article seems to be telling the reader that it's ok what the Government has done, that it is nothing like what AIG did. Problem is, AIG has always handed out bonuses too, there is no difference aside from scale.


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