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Congressional Pay Grows 15 Times Faster Than Social Security Checks

  • Published: 2010-04-21 : Author: The Senior Citizens League
  • Synopsis: Congress have awarded themselves pay raises totaling $77,400 per year 1,458 percent more than seniors.

Seniors who retired in 1990 with the average Social Security benefit have seen their annual payments increase by just $4,967 over the past 20 years.

Seniors who retired in 1990 with the average Social Security benefit have seen their annual payments increase by just $4,967 over the past 20 years. During the same time period, members of Congress have awarded themselves pay raises totaling $77,400 per year, a whopping 1,458 percent more than seniors.

The analysis was conducted by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors advocacy groups with 1.2 million supporters.

According to the Social Security Administration, a senior receiving the average Social Security benefit in 1990 received $554.50 per month. A TSCL analysis found that the same senior is receiving a monthly benefit of $968.40 today, due to the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) intended to help seniors keep up with inflation.

*Note: Members of the House of Representatives have had a greater salary increase than Senators since 1990 because their base pay in 1990 was slightly lower.

For the first time since the automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) was introduced in 1975, seniors are receiving no COLA this year. Lawmakers, however, receive an automatic pay raise each year without having to cast a vote for it; instead, they would have to vote to block their annual pay raise. Lawmakers continue to enjoy massive wealth - a 2008 study by the Center for Responsive Politics reported that fully 61 of 100 senators were millionaires.

"This is a perfect example of the two types of rules we've gotten too used to seeing - those that politicians make for themselves, and those they make for the rest of us," said Daniel O'Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. "As lawmakers enjoy their six-figure incomes, they've too often turned a blind eye to the desperate plight of America's seniors, who are struggling harder than ever to make ends meet."

TSCL supports H.R. 4720, the "Taking Responsibility for Congressional Pay Act," introduced by Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. The bill currently has 27 co-sponsors.

The proposal would cut congressional pay by five percent next year, representing the first pay cut for lawmakers since the Great Depression. The $8,700-per-lawmaker cut would save taxpayers more than $4.6 million.

TSCL encourages its members to contact their lawmakers and request that they co-sponsor the bill.

"Although the majority of lawmakers are happy with the status quo, more than two dozen have already supported a congressional pay cut. We believe that these lawmakers - truly great role models who are willing to endure personal sacrifice during these difficult economic times - deserve our gratitude," said Shannon Benton, TSCL's executive director. "Therefore, we will post the names of all of this bill's supporters to our website, at"

With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League ( is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. TSCL is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association.

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