June 07, 2005

Pay the Bums More?

There are a lot of things to say about Elizabeth Drew's long assessment of the corruption surrounding the GOP reign in Washington. But my first thought, and I'm only about halfway through the piece, is that members of Congress simply don't get paid enough. Heh. Really, though, I don't see any way to restrict money in politics altogether—politicians will always be in the business of courting lobbyists, and lobbyists will always be in the business of skirting regulations and lavishing gifts on politicians. Powerful interests will always be powerful. The world will keep spinning. Et cetera. Sure, I'd genuinely like to see better regulations on all this, but ultimately, as with corporate governance, a lot of the money problems in Washington stem from the utter lack of integrity of the characters involved: DeLay, Norquist, Santorum, Ney, Abramoff, Bush. Obviously we need to kick the bums out. But we also need to figure out how to make sure future politicians can maintain at least a shred of integrity and don't fall as far down the K Street sinkhole as the current Republican regime has done.

The solution, perhaps, is more money. If members of Congress enjoy traveling, then let's give them enough cash to go traveling. What do I care? It's certainly better—and ultimately much cheaper—than having some trade association put up the funds to send the House Majority Leader to Scotland or wherever in exchange for some hefty tax credits. Now I'm not naïve enough to that think higher salaries for members of Congress would eliminate all corruption, but it would possibly eliminate some. In theory, higher pay would bring greater status, relative to lobbyists, for members of Congress, something that could presumably help out here. You'd also have fewer senators and representatives treating their whole legislative careers as one big favor-dishing prelude to a more lucrative K Street position. (Like, say, Billy Tauzin.) And then there's the bright but admittedly tenuous hope that higher pay would attract, well, a bit more talent to the halls of Capitol Hill. Um, like I said, admittedly tenuous.
-- Brad Plumer 3:04 PM || ||