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.