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A round of drinks on the American taxpayer

Daryl Lease makes an astute observation in his Sarasota Herald-Tribune column. Lease wondered why Congress would give themselves a 2.7 percent pay raise, while passing only a 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase for social security. Then he realized that stricter lobbying rules prevent them from accepting free drinks from lobbyists. “Talk about ‘basic necessities.’ Clearly, money for booze has to come from somewhere. Hence, the extra 0.4 percent for the Congress,” Lease muses.

Plus, there’s another reason Congress has to pump up its pay, Lease says. How else will it compete with the lobbying firms that lure lawmakers to leave for greener pastures?

Instead of grousing about congressional raises, we should be pushing lawmakers to give themselves even more. If they don’t, the “green flight” from Capitol Hill to K Street, Washington’s lobbyist row, will only worsen.

The situation reached a crisis stage a few years ago, when Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., played a key role in passing a Medicare bill favorable to the pharmaceutical industry — then swiftly left Congress for a $2 million annual salary in the pharmaceutical industry.

What a loss to the nation.

In the past decade, about 43 percent of lawmakers have become lobbyists after leaving office, according to Public Citizen. But some aren’t waiting until their terms end.