The Obama Administration has floated proposals that would allow the government to determine and cap pay for corporate executives. Congressmen like Barney Frank have even suggested that the government’s powers to intervene and establish pay scales should extend beyond companies receiving federal aid through TARP. All of this sudden interest in pay-for-performance from our elected officials got me thinking about how noble it would be if our government leaders led by example and agreed to be compensated along the same pay-for-performance philosophy. Here are a few suggested guidelines to start the dialogue. Senators and congressmen seem like a good place to begin:
- The salary of senators and congressmen would be adjusted downward by the same percentage of votes they fail to show up for in their appropriate chamber. Miss 20% of your votes and lose 20% of next year’s pay.
- Members of congress would no longer be allowed to quietly vote themselves automatic pay raises. Rather, they could propose increases and the voters in their own district or state would decide every four years during the general election whether or not to give their particular senator or congressman a raise. All senators and congressmen would come into office earning the same compensation. From there on, it would be up to those they represent to grant pay increases. In this manner it would be possible for a productive and honest senator from tiny Vermont to earn more than a style-without-substance loudmouth from populous New York or California.
- Candidates running for office would be required to record and submit all campaign promises made to their constituents. At the conclusion of their term, a percentage of promises they failed to keep would be determined. They would then be charged back a percentage of their salary that is equal to the percentage of failed promises. Amounts unpaid would be deducted from the representative’s pension.
- Each senator and congressman would be given an operating budget to cover staff, travel expenses, postage and the like. They would be required to post on the congressional website an annual report explaining the results and how close, percentage-wise, they came to living within their budget. Their pay for the next year would be adjusted according to the same percentage. For example, exceeding your budget by 10% would result in a 10% decrease in pay for the upcoming year.
- Elected representatives would sign a code of conduct agreeing to resign from office immediately if they: bounce a check, fail to pay any of their taxes, commit a DUI, felony or engage in sexual infidelity.
Obviously, the list of pay-for-performance critera could continue but this is a start. One downside of these guidelines would be that the welfare rolls might temporarily increase as slothful and ineffective public servants lost most of their income, but in the long run we would all benefit from having our government perform at the same level they demand of those who, through the sweat of their brow and burden of taxes, pay their salaries.