Two words you don’t see together very often: Congress and Accountable. Add a third – Constituents – and you’ve got a phenomenon so rare that probably only Bernie Sanders would recognize it.
The Founding Fathers started from a faulty premise – that serving our country was an honorable job filled by honorable people. Though they put checks and balances in between various branches of government, they gave no such controls to constituents. They valued democracy so highly it was impossible to conceive of a time when politicians would trample on it for money, power and prestige.
Even without the corporation people, the creepy Koch boys and ALEC’s summer camp for legislators, we are still left with this problem: The only option most constituents have with a rogue member of congress is not to re-elect them. Based on what we’re seeing now – a lot of damage can be done in a single term (Think credit rating, jobs, financial reform laws.)
What forces accountability in politics? Money.
When the Constitution was written, Congress was paid $6 per day. If they worked twice as many days as they do now (and I use the term work very loosely) that would be $2,400 a year. Congress’ current starting salary is $174,000. To be fair, there’s inflation – not to mention they get to set their own pay.
Notice it’s a flat rate – everyone gets the same check. Now, I know that’s not how it’s done for the corporation people, so why are there no performance-measures for Congress? Isn’t that how those union thug kindergarten teachers are raping our state budgets?
We can go straight to the Census for the data we need to establish our baseline measure – performance-based compensation.
Every 10 years, the Census collects data on the median household income for each state. This gives a glimpse into how well each state’s citizens are doing financially. Congressional salaries should be equal to that amount, so the better constituents do, the more representatives make.
We do have to account for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), but fortunately an accepted formula already exists. We use it for Social Security – in fact this year, those lucky seniors will be seeing their first COLA since 2009 with a 3.6% rise in benefits.
Then there’s committee assignments – a measure of individual power in the Capital. Of course those should also be tied back to performance. Those states that have the best rankings for education, healthcare, poverty, first responder funding, employment and infant mortality are surely best qualified to represent us on the national level.
Perhaps we could also include a bonus for approved legislation. Every time you sponsor a bill that actually gets to the President’s desk, you get a $50 Wal-Mart Gift card. Every time you filibuster, you lose a vacation day.
How Would This Work?
Let’s take Jim DeMint. The power-broker from South Carolina would see his salary drop to $42,422 year. He might have to answer to ALEC (yes that one) who ranks South Carolina as #50 in Student Performance despite being 33rd in dollars spent per student. (No doubt all those illegal immigrant first graders are pulling them down).
South Carolina is 14th highest in uninsured citizens, 4th highest in infant mortality and has an unemployment rate of 9.5 % as of January 2012 – it’s lowest in three years and still a full percentage point over the national average. Yet Senator DeMint serves on the Economic Policy Committee. What’s wrong with this picture?
If I was the Congress Nazi – no committees for you.
We mustn’t forget those more important roles, like Speaker John Boehner – he makes $235,000 for doing the same nothing as everyone else. Eric Cantor and Nancy Pelosi rack up $193,400. But in our model, Boehner takes home $41,724, Cantor a whopping $48,189 and Pelosi gets $47,968.
Reduce Wasteful Spending
Added together, congressional salaries alone (no perks and bennies) cost taxpayers $93,178,30o a year for 535 unaccountable and often dishonorable men and women.
When I add up all the median incomes for each state, the total is $2,210,91. If I divide that by the number of states, the average salary per congress member would be $44, 218. Now lets multiply that by 535 (membership in congress) and we get a total cost of $23,656,747.
Wow, we’ve shaved $69,521,553 off the budget every year! In 10 years, that would add up to nearly $700M – minus the Wal-Mart gift cards. What a great way to save money and reduce waste, improve efficiency and encourage merit-based performance!
Wait, what? $700M is chump change? Really? Okay, okay - don’t get your panties in a wad. I still have to review the budgets for their two private gyms.