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Congressional Pay

2004-09-29

Category: politics

In an earlier post, I mentioned the fictional "States Decide Congressional Pay Amendment". You may have wondered what that was. (Ok, I know most of you barely read the original post and then just shook your head, but try to play along here. This is serious.) Well, here is my thought on why we really need such a thing.

Section 1, Article 6 of the Constitution of the United States says that members of congress are to be paid from the U.S. Treasury an amount determined by law. The problem is that the same congress people who are receiving the pay pass the law specifying the pay amount. Though all of us would like to determine our own pay, we can pretty much agree that it's a bad practice in general.

That's I propose the following Amendment. Each congressperson should be paid by his or her home state an amount determined by that state's legislature.

What does this do?

To start with, it prevents congress from setting its own pay. Again, most of will agree that people will abuse choosing their own compensation. That's the easy part, but there's more.

I believe that this Amendment will strength a congressperson's ties to their home states. These people are supposed to be representing their states best interest on the national level. If their pay is tied directly to what happens to that state, they are going to be much more attentive to their duties. What's more, it requires the people of the state to pay more attention to their representatives.

There are several arguments against this. First, there is the thought that congress people will try to do things that benefit their home state at the expense of the good of the nation. This is possible, but the legislator will have to overcome the works of all the other legislators to do so. That sounds reasonably unlikely in general practice. The fact that these things sometimes happen now shows that it is always an issue. You shouldn't stop a good idea, like the Amendment, based on the occasional counter example of abuse.

Secondly, there is the thought congress people who don't get paid enough are susceptible to bribes. This would be particularly true for states that have less money and resources (poorer states). I'm a big believer that states should be able to prosecute for state level treason. If a representative of the state takes bribes to do things not in the state's best interest, that person is a traitor to the state. Hang 'em.

The third big argument against is that it will add another burden to the state treasury. Perhaps at first, but you'll find that a state orient national congress is much less likely to make demands on the states. What's more, they'll stop doing things that should be handled at the state level. All of that makes more money available to the state, which, in turn, makes money available to pay the legislator,

As a general rule, people work better when there is a taskmaster standing over them. Our current congress has no such slave driver to keep an eye on them. I believe that the "States Decide Congressional Pay Amendment" will fix that. NOTE: As a general rule, I almost never want to see Constitutional Amendments. It should not be changed lightly.


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