Why are we raising the pay of big wasters?
Can we stop the rewards for failure and malfeasance?
Just because the bailout isnít easy to stop, doesn't mean it's smart. Or that Congress is deserving. Or Bushites should be forgiven. We trim, blend, and append three 2009 op-eds: (1) on the stimulus from the assistant managing editor of CBS MarketWatch, Jan 8; (2) on the congressional pay raise from the Weekly Wastebasket, Jan 9, Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS); and (3) on Bush corruption from Frank Rich, op-ed columnist in the New York Times, Jan 10 (now that itís safe).
by Tom Bemis and by TCS and by Frank Rich
Why isn't anybody in power scared about the 'stimulus' plan?
The latest stimulus plan numbers coming out of Washington would have been shocking a long time ago -- like last month.
The US deficit is already headed for $1.2 trillion this fiscal year, before the new administration even gets a chance to open the spigots on the $800 billion -- and rising -- it's got in the works. The world will soon be awash in fresh US debt -- trillions and trillions of dollars of the stuff. But all that debt will be backed by people whose ability to pay it off grows more doubtful by the day.
All that additional spending won't halt the recession that we're already in. It will prevent industries (like automobiles and newspapers) from making changes in order to operate successfully. It won't unwind any of the global imbalances that helped accelerate the current mess. And it will certainly make things worse down the road.
Sooner or later the world is going to run a credit check on Uncle Sam and say, "Sorry, you don't qualify."
Something like that just happened in Europe, where a sale of 10-year bonds failed, leaving the state bank stuck with a big chunk of the offering. It wasn't in deeply troubled Greece, or eternally problematic Italy. It was in Germany, the heartland of the European economy.
Taking the position that the prior administration got everything wrong, and the new one will get everything right is deeply problematic, especially when the "solution" being offered is exactly the same.
JJS: If the bailout is wrong, what is right? Actually, what we should do now is no different from what we should have been doing all along -- apply geonomics. Not only would a shift of taxes and subsidies have prevented this mess, the recovery and sharing of rents in lieu of taxing earnings and subsidizing waste would now resolve it. As long as elected officials refuse to do what works, should we pay them at all, never mind give them a raise?
Let's Stop the Congressional Pay Raise
Elected officials giving themselves a pay raise is rarely popular, especially if you have an approval rating hovering around 10% (which is where it is now). Just ask the Pennsylvania state legislators that got voted out of office in 2005 after they stealthily increased their pay in the dark of the night. The legislature beat a hasty retreat a few months later but more than 20 lawmakers lost their elections over it.
Most lawmakers maintain two residences and work long hours. So we do need to compensate them appropriately. But automatically? In 1989 the House made the pay raise automatic. Now Congress is pocketing an additional $4700 while thousands of their constituents are getting pink slips.
Some lawmakers are pledging to contribute their raise to local charities. Nice, but the pay raise still boosts their future pension benefits, plus they get a tax deduction for the contribution, and they get the public relations boost of giving to charity. The better option is they contribute their raise back to the Treasury to help pay down the $10.5 trillion debt.
Or make it contingent upon performance. When the Democrats took control in the 110th Congress, they voted not to take a raise until the minimum wage was increased. After that happened, they took their raise. Right now many Americans canít even get a minimum wage job, so this seems to be a good time for similar action.
Since 1989, some lawmakers have introduced legislation to undo the process or stop a raise, only to find that their bills die in committee. Now the only way to stop the raise is to force a vote on it. Congress should immediately move to suspend the pay raise and swear them off until the economy is in full recovery. Or until the unemployment rate is well below 5%. Or both.
JJS: One way Congress could earn its pay is to work for it, like, fulfill its responsibilities. Now that itís safe, now that a scapegoat would distract people from underlying flaws, and now that government wants to continue its profligacy, it turns out, actually, Bush was bad!
Eight Years of Madoff-style rip-offs
In eight years the Bush administration piled up more than $10 trillion in new debt and new obligations. Now, through demands for retroactive immunity, assertions of state privilege, and implausible claims that openness will empower terrorists, the outgoing White House tries to withhold, hide, and possibly destroy huge chunks of evidence of its wrongdoing. While our new president must move on and address the urgent crises, Bush administration malfeasance canít be merely forgotten or finessed. A new Justice Department must enforce the law. And Congress must press outstanding subpoenas to smoke out potential criminal activity.
JJS: And the public must watch, who gets the trillions of new debt, and what that does to the value of land, the most alluring object of speculation.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Bankruptcy or Bailout to Nowhere?
The Voters ChooseÖ but on the Basis of What?
Rulers need not oppress those majorities who go along
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?