January 25, 2006
The Real Political Corruption: Part II
quest for re-election is at the heart of the corruption of public
officials who betray the public trust in order to get the money
needed to pay for their political campaigns. It is hard to see
how that corruption can be ended, except by ending re-elections
with a limit of one term and a ban on running for another office
for several years.
the one term can be spent taking care of the duties of the office
instead of taking care of promoting a political career in that
office or other offices.
of course, other sources of corruption. Members of Congress whose
work puts them in the rarefied company of movers and shakers in
the private sector, who make ten or a hundred times what Congressmen
are paid, may find it tempting to accept perks like free flights
on corporate jets or weekends at expensive watering holes. Some
may hope for lucrative jobs after leaving politics.
won't influence Congressional votes. But maybe it will.
are too high for us to be penny-wise and pound-foolish by putting
trillions of dollars of the taxpayers' money in the hands of elected
officials who are paid less than the beginning salary of a top
student from a top law school.
If we paid
every member of Congress $10 million a year, that would not increase
the federal budget by one percent.
that it would reduce the federal budget considerably, when members
of the Senate or the House of Representatives no longer needed
campaign contributions or the personal favors of special interest
groups and their lobbyists.
in the Senate would bring in $60 million, which most people could
live on for life, without being beholden to anybody and without
having to seek a job afterwards for special interests, much less
having to sell their soul to continue a political career.
Money is not the only thing that corrupts. Power also corrupts
and some people go into politics for power.
be done about such people -- except force them to compete with
other people, drawn from a far larger pool, including top people
in highly paid professions who today can seldom afford to serve
in Congress at the expense of their family's standard of living
and financial security.
Do we want
laws made by people who would sacrifice their families in order
to get their hands on the levers of power? Or people who can serve
in Congress because they inherited wealth -- and therefore have
never had to personally experience what ordinary people experience
and learn from, including government red tape?
We need laws
written by people who have confronted life in the real world,
not in the sheltered world of trust fund recipients or the insulated
cocoon of academia. Nor do we need people who have nothing to
offer in the private sector that would earn them more than what
they currently receive in Congress.
power seekers include not only members of Congress but also their
staffs, who are often fresh out of academia, with little experience
in the real world, many untested notions, and often a touch of
vanity as one of the anointed.
of paying the kind of money that would attract the kind of people
we need in government runs against many prejudices. Just plain
envy is one. Some people feel that those they elect should not
make so much more than they do.
about it: If your child had some life-threatening condition that
required some very demanding surgery, would you worry about whether
the surgeon who saves your child's life had an annual income that
was several times what you make?
Congress have not only trillions of dollars of our tax money in
their hands, they also have in their hands our lives and the lives
of our children and our nation. Are you going to worry about their
incomes or about what caliber of people we can attract to make
the momentous decisions that have to be made?
Yes, it would
be nice if all public officials were self-sacrificing individuals
who had no other thought than doing their best for their country.
It would also be nice if voters watched elected officials 24/7.
But the best is the enemy of the good. The road to Utopia has
repeatedly turned out to be the road to hell, in countries around
2006 Creators Syndicate