Scandal

Penalties for Pols: Instapundit Outlines the Case

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In his USA Today col, Glenn Instapundit Reynolds reminds us that elected officials face no serious consequences for job failure (at the national level, congressmen and senators enjoy 90-percent-plus re-election rates). Part of the reason they act so poorly, he argues, is that the risk-reward-punishment cycles are all messed up. Congress, for instance, has created all sorts of immunities for itself when it comes to bad acting, even though the Constitution only mentions immunity from prosecution for activities related to speech and debate directly related to legislative work.

What to do?

I'd…cut all payments to members of Congress whenever they haven't passed a budget. If they can't take care of that basic responsibility, why should they get paid? Likewise, I'd ban presidential travel when there's not a budget. He can do his job from the White House.

I'm willing to consider other changes: Term limits that kick in whenever there's a deficit for more than two years in a row. Limitations on civil-service protections to allow wronged citizens to get offending bureaucrats fired. Pay cuts for elected officials whenever inflation or unemployment are above a threshold.

But the real lesson is this: We entrust an inordinate amount of power to people who don't feel any pain when we fall down. The best solution of all is to take a lot of that power back. When the power is in your hands, it's in the hands of someone who feels it when you fall down. When it's in their hands, it's your pain, their gain. That's no way to run a country.

Whole thing here.

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  1. All the budget related punishments are easy to get around with a continuing resolution. They are well practiced at that.

    The deficit-based suggestions are good. I’d also say that any department/office/program that goes over budget two years in a row automatically gets suspended pending direct intervention from Congress. I’d do away with the job protections for all federal employees.

    1. All the budget related punishments are easy to get around with a continuing resolution. They are well practiced at that.

      CRs are not budgets. If they didn’t pass a budget within the statutory timeline, turn off the tap.

      1. It’s too vague a term to pin down any politician. They could easily pass initial budgets and then violate the hell out of them, modify them to pieces, meet the letter of the law, and rape its spirit.

  2. Pop quizzes.

    “Senator, remember that Health Care Bill you voted for? Please write a 300-word essay summarizing its funding mechanisms. We’ll wait.”

  3. We entrust an inordinate amount of power to people who don’t feel any pain when we fall down.

    needz something…how about: we entrust inordinate power to people who can shape their own rules of performance so that no one is held accountable for anything, so that they can force us to live under rules they are exempt from, and so they can tells us what to do so we don’t have to think about it.

    1. This is happening equally, if not more, in private industry too. Right now, in America, the people who take the risks and make the decisions do not feel the consequences of those risks and decisions.

      1. I agree with you on a dollars basis…taxpayers footing the bill etc.

        But on a headcount basis, I disagree. All too often, small scale entrepreneurs bear the risk and forfeit the reward.

        I think scandal is the key here. Ever notice how politicians start to work hard (by their standards) when they’re running from something? If we can embroil govt in a scandal early, they might spend the rest of their term working to get re-elected.

        1. thom is right. Inside large corporations, the VPs and CEOs who make the big decisions (that impact everyone and everything about the company) have nice golden parachutes. They make the big decisions but in the end, they aren’t the ones that feel the pain if those decisions are bad.

          It’s the grunt workers who get laid off that feel the pain.

          Now, when it comes to smaller companies, I agree with you.

  4. But the real lesson is this: We entrust an inordinate amount of power to people who don’t feel any pain when we fall down. The best solution of all is to take a lot of that power back.

    This should be obvious. But suggest it to most people and they’ll look at you as if you’ve got three heads or something.

  5. Holding people personally responsible for their incompetence is unfair.

    1. And often racist.

  6. Seems like this is an appropriate quote…

    Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare ? most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. ? Robert A. Heinlein

  7. One term term limit, at the end of the term, the incumbent is executed.

    You’ll have to really want to be in government to take that job.

  8. I think politicians should be selected by lottery, forced to serve a single term, and then be released back into the wild with the admonition that they will be shot on sight if they ever return to Washington.

  9. Tar and feathers used to work.

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