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Congress Gets Pay Raise; Minimum Wage Unchanged

Members of Congress recently passed a pay increase for themselves to the tune of $3,100. Approved by President Bush and effective January 1, 2006, their base salary will be $165,200.

Congress’ annual pay bump stands in stark contrast to the federal minimum wage, which has not been raised for eight years … since September 1, 1997.

In its report Out of Reach 2005, the National Low Income Housing Coalition offers the following perspective:

In no rural county or metropolitan area can a renter with a full-time job paying the prevailing minimum wage afford even a one-bedroom unit priced at the Fair Market Rent. And in only 42 counties—representing less than 1% of renter households nationwide—does a full-time minimum wage job constitute sufficient income to afford an efficiency or studio (i.e. zero bedroom) unit.

A parent would have to work at least three minimum-wage jobs to afford a two-bedroom apartment in California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Washington D.C.—nearly four jobs in Hawaii and Maryland.

The Economic Policy Institute provides comprehensive data on the minimum wage, including some concise Facts at a Glance and answers to FAQs.

Q: Who are minimum wage workers?

A: An estimated 7.3 million workers (5.8% of the workforce) would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 by June 2007. Of these workers, 72.1% are adults and 60.6% are women. Close to half (43.9%) work full time and another third (34.5%) work between 20 and 34 hours per week. More than one-third (35%) of the workers who would benefit from an increase to $7.25 are parents of children under age 18, including 760,000 single mothers. The average minimum wage worker brings home about half of his or her family’s weekly earnings.

And what of the earnings of our Senators and Representatives? According to the nonprofit publication Too Much,

No one can say precisely how many millionaires currently sit in Congress, or how many millions these millionaires hold, mainly because the annual disclosure forms members of Congress must file don’t require them to report the exact value of their assets. Instead, the forms ask lawmakers to list each of their assets within a set of fixed value ranges.

If you would like to study financial disclosure statements for members of Congress, visit PoliticalMoneyLine’s Candidate Profile Search.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Type in all or a portion of a last name.
  2. Choose the most recent election cycle.
  3. Click Go Search!
  4. Click on the appropriate name to open a profile.
  5. In the lower right-hand side of the screen, look for the box titled “Annual Personal Financial Disclosure Documents”
  6. Click on the report of your choice (available as a PDF document).

When you’re through, why don’t you contact your reps in Washington? Ask them to raise the minimum wage to help working families.

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