Making the Best of the Bums
The latest backlash against overprivileged public officials is taking the form of a bill known as the 'If our military has to fly coach then so should Congress' Act.
While these are noble and understandable sentiments, IMHO they miss a larger and more important point.
Congressmen at least have the one redeeming quality that they are the directly chosen representatives of the people, nominally accountable through the election process. We may argue about how to make that accountability felt more acutely in light of the high recidivism, um, re-election rate for incumbents. But that is the basic definition.
A much more serious problem with our government is the directorate class of our administrative agencies, ostensibly under the supervision of the Executive branch but in practice acting as an unaccountable and extra-constitutional branch of the federal government. No voter has the opportunity to recall a Secretary of Energy, Health and Human Services, the Interior, or the EPA. Moreover, the senior staffs of these agencies pocket salaries, benefits, and pensions that dwarf what any congressman makes. They directly command tens to hundreds of billions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded resources. HHS alone is several times larger than the Defense department. (Dwell on that for a moment.)
When the people's most constitutionally legitimate representative confronts one of these czars to bring them into line with representational republican governance, the latter can just laugh, like Godfather Vito Corleone confronted by a petty shopkeeper. What's some pathetic congressman compared to the wealth and arbitrary power of an executive agency czar?
Thomas Sowell has suggested a constitutional limit on congressmen to single, six-year terms with a seven-figure salary but no pension (separately, I have suggested a constitutional amendment that would require public officials to pass a factual examination on the contents of Sowell's Basic">Basic Economics as a condition of their taking office -- but I digress). This would have the virtues of attracting a high caliber of candidates and focusing office holders' attention on their jobs rather than their re-election, putting them on an equal prestige footing with their peers while erasing hope of feathering a long-term nest.
The cost of business class and first-class travel for congressional staffs is a drop in the ocean compared to entitlements and unfunded public employee (union) pension liabilities. The citizens have an interest in their representatives being productive and not inconvenienced while they cope with the extraordinary demands on their time. The fact is that rank and file military have an honorable but different role to play. But I would support upgrading entire cabins of military aircraft to first class for all before I would tear down the constitutional representatives of the people to make the shared inconvenience 'fair'. Tearing down one side for the sake of fairness is an idea that comes from somewhere else.
Bums should be thrown out. But as long as they are in,we need the best.
Howard Hyde is editor of HHCapitalism.com and President of the Southern California Republican Women and Men (www.Facebook.com/SCRWM). He may be reached at HHCapitalism@gmail.com