Thursday, November 15, 2012

Political Turnover

You've probably all heard the quote from Warren Buffet about fixing the national deficit.

I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of congress are ineligible for re-election.

That's a nice thought and a simple solution, but it has two major holes. The first, most obvious, is that it would be up to Congress to pass such a law, and we all know that's never going to happen. I think their new law template automatically includes verbiage that exempts themselves from whatever law they're passing. The second is that our problems go beyond whether there is a deficit. The corruption in Washington goes deeper than whether the government is spending more money than it's bringing in. We need turnover to get rid of some of the layers of corruption, which is the opposite of the current system of encouraging seniority.

A quicker way to fix some of the problems in Washington, which would suffer from the same problem as Warren Buffet's recommendation in that Congress wouldn't agree to pass it, would be to hold congressional pay at the level it was when each member is elected. So, to see how that would work, Orrin Hatch would be making $44,600 now instead of $174,000. This would help with the incentive to turn over anyone who has been there for decades.

The best way? Do not allow anyone to run for elected office while holding an elected office. If you want to run again, you'd have to actually resign your current position, even if it's the same one you're running for. In effect, there would be no such thing as reelection - only election. In the mean time, someone else is appointed to your seat for the last year of your term. If you're running for a completely different office, you show your confidence by stepping down, instead of knowing you have a fail-safe to fall back to the position you've been ignoring while running for the new office.

I don't know much about Mia Love, but one blogger pointed out that some people in the city are concerned that she has been slacking as mayor while running for national office. I wonder the same about President Obama - if he's out shaking people's hands and raising money, he's not fixing the country.

A possible way to game this would be to have two people who alternate back and forth and endorse each other, but I think once someone is out of office for a few years, they would be less likely to be sent back than if they were the incumbent.

What other ways could that system be gamed? What are some other ideas with just as unlikely of a chance of being passed by Congress that might more effectively turn things over and get some new people in Washington? Would more turnover cause more corruption than we have now?

photo by basykes

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