An Old Riff from the last election year.

Dug this one out of the past. It was when my column was being carried by the newspaper in Belleville, MI.
Hmmm, not much has changed since I wrote this 2003.

CLIFF'S RIFFS: Cut benefits for lawmakersBy Cliff Yankovich
PUBLISHED: December 25, 2003
As an election year is fast approaching, we need to get our heads out of the sand, ignore the distractions of what the political parties want us to concentrate on and focus on some issues that are strangling taxpayers -- be they Democrats, Republicans, Greenies or whatever.
Are you aware that Congress members draw their pay until they die? The program that pays them is not tied to Social Security -- representatives and senators do not collect from Social Security, neither do they have their paychecks shortened by any Social Security withholding.
No, the boys and girls we elect will draw paychecks until death (with pay going to surviving spouses until they die) thanks to a program instituted many years ago. They don't pay a single cent into their plan. Nothing. Our taxes do.
How dumb are we? The lifetime salaries go to alleged fiscal "conservatives" as well as the more liberal folks. We are paying for their retirement, dear readers, and they didn't even ask us if we wanted to.
NOTE: I have been corrected about the above information by the observant Fritz. I have posted a (hopefully) more factual version of the retirement program in a comment attached.

Things are pretty swell for our elected state officials as well. Can we all still remember that in 2001 our state representatives received a 36-percent raise?
Median income in Michigan is approximately $38,883, but our legislators are guaranteed a minimum of more than twice that, plus an expense allowance starting at 12 grand a year.
It is worth mentioning that the Republican controlled House voted 100-6 against the raise, but that was a useless political gesture because in order to turn down a pay raise both the Senate and House must decline by a two-thirds majority.
Sen. Dan DeGrow (R-Port Huron) demonstrated his fiscal conservatism by simply refusing to let the issue be voted on, thereby guaranteeing him and the rest of the legislators the pork they love.
As a reluctant Republican, I want to say to my fellow Republicans that if you continue to listen to the party line on spending and do not force your elected officials to deal with this issue, then you are no more fiscally responsible than the worst "tax-and-spend liberal" you can name.
To the Democrats out there -- forget the smokescreens put up by the candidates and take them to task on this issue. Our state is millions in the hole and yet the legislators allowed themselves an enormous raise which cost us 8 million in two years. By the way, our legislators are the third-highest paid in the nation behind California and New York. What a load of junk they have piled on us folks; we need to dig out from under it and force state and national legislators into pay concessions now.
As much as the Green Party scares me, their candidates are the only ones who claim to not be interested in sucking the life out of all of us with salary increases and pension plans so sweet they make your teeth rot.
Demand that your state and federal legislators do something about their own compensation plans. E-mail them, write them, call them, and hassle them on the campaign trail -- we can make a difference if we ignore their smoke and light a fire under their behinds.
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