Congressional Reform Act-Fiction!

Congressional Reform Act-Fiction!

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Congressional Reform Act-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

This is an email that contains a list of ideas “to fix congress” and tells the reader to forward it to 20 people in their address books.   Among these ideas are setting term limits, changing government pension plans, mandating congressional participation in Social Security, stopping congressional pay raises and making elected officials accountable for their actions.

Some versions of this eRumor say that millionaire Warren Buffett is asking readers to forward this email.

The Truth:

This eRumor originally appeared as the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011,”  which was never a real bill in Congress, but it is a passionate plea for change on behalf of concerned citizens hoping to get the word out across the World Wide Web.

It first appeared in January 2011. Later, in October 2011, versions with an inserted quote by business millionaire Warren Buffett began circulating and also said that he was requesting all readers to forward the email.

The Buffett quote is real and taken from a transcript of an interview on CNBC on July 7, 2011.  Buffett gave a humorous quick solution to fix the problems of the deficit and Congress during a live interview.  Buffett jokingly said, “I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that any time there’s a deficit of more than three percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. Yeah, yeah, now you’ve got the incentives in the right place, right?”

TruthOrFiction.Com has found no evidence that Warren Buffett has made such a plea to forward this email on the Internet.

Just about every year after that a new version off this eRumor has risen from the ashes and in 2014 a version, still alleged to have been thought of by Warren Buffet, was modified to include the salaries of retired presidents and members of the Legislative Branch. This version goes on to compare those salaries to enlisted military and teachers.

We do not know who wrote this email other than a concerned citizen who wanted to change Congress. This call for citizen action first appeared on the Internet shortly after the 112th Congress was sworn in on January 5, 2011. Days later it began moving through the World Wide Web like wild fire.

The writer of the email is apparently passionate about his recommendation but failed to give any directions as to where all these forwarded emails could be sent to do any good.

We found some of the claims from the list to be inaccurate:

Congressional representatives are exempt from paying into Social Security – Fiction!
Elected representatives are not exempt from paying into Social Security. We have findings posted in a related eRumor.   Click for findings.

Congressional representatives are above the law- Fiction!

Congressional representatives are not above the law. Here are some recent examples of those who have been caught, tried and convicted:

In early January 2010 former GOP Congressman Tom Delay was sentenced to 3 years in prison after being found guilty for his participation in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

Three years later, a Texas court overturned Delay’s conviction, “saying prosecutors failed to prove that he broke the law in a fundraising scandal from the 2002 elections.”  This according to a September 19, 2013 article by USA Today.  The article also said that the  District Attorney for Travis County plans appeal the decision.

James A. Traficant, an Ohio Democrat, was expelled from Congress after being found guilty of bribery and racketeering. Traficant served seven years behind bars in a Minnesota prison and was released in 2009.

Congressional representatives are exempt from Health Care policies- Fiction!
Congressional representatives are not exempt from the healthcare reform law.

Congressional representatives have been voting themselves cost of living pay raises- Fiction!
Cost of living salary increases for congressional members have been automatically generated in the past, but some members have been known to voluntarily opt out of it. Members of Congress have not gotten a raise in pay in the last 2 years while the US has been facing hard economic times. Also, the 111th Congress, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, voted to stop the automatic pay raise for the last two consecutive years. President Obama signed the last bill into law on May 14, 2010, which will affect congressional pay raises in 2011, according to a May 14th article by the congressional newspaper, The Hill. The article also said, “The base pay for House and Senate lawmakers is $174,000, though leaders earn a higher salary. The cost-of-living increase would have given lawmakers a $1,600 raise in 2011. By rescinding the increase, lawmakers saved taxpayers $850,000 for next year.”  Click for article.

Salary of retired US Presidents is $180,000 FOR LIFE- Fiction!
According to USGovInfo.about.com, the salary of retired presidents changed in 2013 when the Former Presidents Acts was signed into law. Retired presidents earn $199,700. This is also the same annual salary paid to former secretaries who served in the Executive Branch Cabinet. The First Lady earns no salary, therefore draws no pension, but she does get free postage stamps for the rest of her life.

Salary of House/Senate members is $174,000 FOR LIFE- Fiction!
The salary of $174,000 per year for the Rank-and-File members of the House and Senate is correct, but when they retire they do not draw this salary. After five years, according to USGovInfo.about.com, they are fully vested into a federal retirement plan. Elected representatives also pay into Social Security.

Salary of Speaker of the House is $223,500 FOR LIFE-Fiction!
The amount is correct, but it is not for life, according to the USGovInfo.about.com.

Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders is $193,400 FOR LIFE-Fiction!  
The amount is correct, but it is not for life, according to the USGovInfo.about.com.

Average Salary of a teacher is $40,065-Fiction!
Teachers salaries vary depending on the location, school district and the grade level they work in. According to the PayScale.com website, the salary of teachers range from  $41,454 to $47,884 per year.

Average Salary of a deployed Soldier is $38,000-Fiction!
The U.S. Military takes many factors to calculate the pay for an active duty member who has been deployed. Rank, time in the service, marital status are all factored in plus hazardous duty pay. According USMilitary.about.com, an E-5 member (Sergeant) with six years in the military who is stationed in San Diego, CA can earn up to $54,989.76 per year, tax-free. The base pay chart below was found on the Go Army website:


Example of base pay for military members does not include deployment or hazardous duty pay.
TruthOrFiction.Com has not found that this type of email has had any influence on the decisions of elected leaders.

Posted 10/18/2011   Updated 09/09/2014