Monday, January 30, 2006

Thomas Sowell has another interesting idea

I don't think I agree, but it is worth thinking about.... (HT: Betsy)

His idea is simple.

1. Make the salary $10M/year.
2. Limit Senators to one term (presumably House members to a small number).
3. Forbid people for running for anything else for a few years after a term.

The idea is not about getting rid of the allure of contribution money and power, but to expand the available pool of candidates.

Money is not the only thing that corrupts. Power also corrupts and some people go into politics for power.

Nothing can 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.

I am a believer in term limits. It never works that way because nobody wants to give up the power of having their senior Senator on the such-and-such committee while nobody else does. This would have to be done by constitutional ammendment. That would be hard.

I have an alternative proposal. I doubt that I have thought about it as long as Mr. Sowell did, and it is clear that I am not in his league intellectually, but it is my blog. I also don't think this one requires a constitutional ammendment. If McCain/Feingold is constitutional, this should be too (bearing in mind that I am not a lawyer).

1. Pay Congressmen and Senators (and the President and VP) $10M/year.
2. Once in office, they never pay income taxes again... on anything.
2a. Revokable on being found guilty of a felony.
3. Once in office they cannot accept any campaign contributions from anybody.
4. Any residual in their "bank" has to be liquidated into their favorite non-political charity.
5. People running against them can raise unlimited funds (with reasonable but larger individual contribution limits). Strict and near-real-time-on-the-web disclosure of all contributions.
6. Make it a crime for any individual to put any non-verifiable statement about any candidate on the air (radio/tv/maybe newpapers) in the last 60 days before an election. And I mean a go-directly-to-jail felony. Never mind slander protections, in the days leading up to an election you can say you disagree with candidate X's vote or position on something. You may not misrepresent their position or vote. You may not make personal slurs. If you do, go to jail for the next 10 years. No waiver for reporters.
7. No residual income or benefits for Congress (Presidents get paid $1M for life until they start acting unpresidential, a couple names come to mind).
8. No getting donations and then giving them to candidates (DNC/RNC fundraising). Funds must be given directly from an individual or business to a candidate. PACs are outlawed. It is all about the citizen legislator.

I think not paying income taxes again is more likely to get highly motivated, highly successful people than paying them $50M/year. I would only give them $10M/year so they don't need to raise money to compete in the next election. This makes them like federal judges. You put them there and then they do whatever they want because you can't give them another dime. They are just easier to impeach. That threat should keep them more honest to their promises than they are now.


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