The United States (US) presidential election has been put to rest for another few years. With the obscene amount of money that is spent on elections and a candidate who made more money in one year than most people can even hope to win in an average lottery, I thought this piece I wrote a while back deserved some air time.
If the representatives we vote into government offices are supposed to represent all the people maybe they should be compensated like their constituents. That way, they might be more inclined to pass legislation that would benefit a larger segment of the population.
Instead of making salaries that, by the standards of the people they represent, are well above average, they should be required to accept the “average” wage. If they are a federal level representative, they would receive the “average” wage of the country. At the state level, they could receive the “average” wage for that state, and so on and so forth. Alternately, the voters could decide what the pay rate is for their representatives. No automatic annual increases, it’s all decided at the same time that the legislators are voted into office – all on the same ballot.
Let’s not limit this to wages; it should extend to benefits as well. They would need to accept the “average” health care plan for whichever level they represent. I strongly suspect that alone would go a long way towards the passing of real health care reform.
They could be allowed an expense account for travel between their home and the legislative location they serve. That would likely include “modest” accommodations at that site – which means they can’t stay at the Hyatt Regency when a Hampton Inn would suffice. Maybe the governments could own a set of “average” apartment buildings for these representatives to occupy while they are away from home.
No more automatic cost of living adjustments, either. Where can you get a guaranteed pay increase each year unless you turn it down (which they seldom do)? Try the United States Congress! (You can probably lump most corporate executives in this category as well, but certainly not the “average” worker.)
Why do we allow our tax dollars to be spent this way? If these people are supposed to represent the average person, then they should live like the average person.
Some might argue that no one would run for office if they had to accept these terms. I highly doubt that would be a deterrent. It would only discourage those who are used to living high on the land, which we seem to have plenty of, already. Instead, more “average” people would run and be elected, which would hopefully have the benefit of instituting more legislation that is for all the people and not just the special interests.
Maybe that’s what the founding fathers really meant when they said “We the people” and “for the people”. Is it just my utopian dream, or it’s time to get back to basics?
(Aside: From what I’ve seen, this problem isn’t limited to the United States.)