Congress Helps Itself

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”Congress is on the verge of giving itself a bump in its annual budget — even as local governments, families and businesses across the country are tightening their belts in the worst recession in decades,” Politico reports.

Spending on the federal legislative branch is set to rise 5.8 percent in 2010, and Politico details some of the dubious activities that will receive increased funding.

In defense of the increase, Jonathan Beeton, a spokesman for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said, “We have not seen a significant increase in overall legislative branch expenditures since nearly 2001.”

That would be a good argument if it were true, but it’s not true. The bill under consideration would provide $4.7 billion in funding for Congress in 2010, which is way up from the $2.7 billion spent in 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service

That’s a 74 percent increase in nine years, representing a very robust 6.4 percent annual average growth rate.

Considering that the “customer base” for this spending has not increased–the number of members of Congress has remained fixed at 535–much of the increased spending would seem to have simply fueled rising compensation for politicians and their staffers. I’ve called for a freeze in executive branch pay, but maybe we ought to have a pay freeze at the other end of Pennsylvania avenue as well.