Oct. 23, 2003
Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004
(At the request of Mr. Daschle, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the RECORD.)
Mr. KERRY. Today, Senators regrettably voted to increase their pay for the fifth year in a row. Next year, as a result of today's action, most of our salaries will be $3,400 higher than they are this year.
While I have supported the congressional pay raise in the past, I cannot in good conscience support it this year. It simply sends the wrong signal to the millions of Americans who are unemployed, or who have taken jobs that pay far less than their previous jobs in order to make ends meet. There are millions of people out there who may not be unemployed, as the formal statistics count them, but they are surely underemployed working part-time instead of full-time, taking a low-paying hourly job just to have some money coming in, or taking a new job that pays them substantially less than their last job.
According to the Labor Department, nearly 5 million people who want full-time jobs have settled for part-time work, an increase of 30 percent in 3 years. In September, despite the fact that the economy created 57,000 new jobs, the percentage of the population with full-time jobs actually declined, and the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more increased.
In fact, just today, on the very day that the pay increase passed the Senate, a cover story in the newspaper USA Today explained how millions of people across America are having to take what the paper called "survival jobs."
A recent report in the Wall Street Journal said that more than 50 percent of Americans who took new jobs last year took a pay cut. Some of my colleagues may call these "new jobs," arguing that it shows the President's three successive tax cuts are starting to work. I don't know what economy they are looking at, but where I come from, when a $50,000 a year worker finds a new job that pays her $30,000, the statistics may count this as a new job, but try telling this American that tax cuts have made her "better off." I don't think it's worth mortgaging our financial future by borrowing record amounts in order to create new jobs that pay Americans less than they made before. And I don't think that we should be getting a pay raise when so many hard-working Americans are getting pay cuts.
In conclusion, it's simply the wrong time for us to take this action, and I do not support it.