Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Congressional Discipline

We hear about “Campaign Finance Reform” (70% of Americans in favor) and the “Culture of Corruption” in politics (Congressional approval rating is only 28%) but the only changes we ever see are things just getting worse. Citizens receive just lip service and often even raw, arrogant contempt from our elective political leaders - too many of whom seem to forget the folks who elected them - and kowtow to their big corporate benefactors. Tom Delay is a classic example.

That tendency makes citizens the prey of corporations with a few corporate Fat Cats controlling most of the political process. Our political leaders themselves too often act like and demand to be treated like royalty.

But, since WE elect them and they actually are supposed to work for US, why don’t we act like real bosses? One way is to tie their salaries to public’s opinion of the jobs they are doing for us. It could be done. We simply have to take the responsibility and enough citizens simply have to demand it.

Right now we allow Congress to enact their own pay raises (and many other things too). They prefer it that way of course - who wouldn’t? In fact, congress persons have their own special “CONGRESSIONAL INSTITUTE” web site to convince us they’re worth every penny - talk about your "Special Interests"!

But, there’s one way we might make them more responsive to us, THE PUBLIC:

* A congressman’s salary today is: $165,500 (with COLA) Some members receive more - like the house leaders. Top salary is $212,000 (with COLA).

*(Not incidentally, Congress recently turned down an increase of the Federal minimum wage which hasn’t been raised since 1997 (from $5.15/Hr). In the same period Congressional pay has increased SEVEN times by around 24% - they even get an AUTOMATIC increase each year unless they specifically decline it!)

We could treat congress people like they wish to treat teachers for example. Let’s make them ACCOUNTABLE and base their pay on MERIT (in this case, decided by public opinion). Here’s one suggested scenario for a typical congress person:

Set a Congressional minimum (2/3 of current salary) = $110,000
Use the Congressional maximum (100% of current salary) = $165,000

Enable Merit steps instep increments of the difference = currently, 5 steps @ $11,000

Then, any time an election rolls around, say about every two years of so, citizens would vote on each individual congress member's merit award. If enough people feel their person does a lousy job, then we might vote for no merit increases. Maybe they do an OK job and we decide to vote them 4 steps of the way to the maximum (= $44,000), which when added to the minimum gives that congress person a total salary of $154,000. Not too shabby all in all. Remember too that the politician is not suffering because he or she has lots of other little bennies that go along with the job - like their fabulous retirement system for example - but let’s don’t go there right now.

We could call this the "3-M Program"!

This scheme gives citizens a pertinent means to express their feeling about the way their own congress person is serving their constituency. It might also be a way to encourage politicians to serve the PEOPLE in their constituency rather than a few well connected folks with special interests.

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