The last of the American auto industry was forced to grovel today before a do-nothing Congress to explain why Congress should be willing to loan the heart of America’s manufacturing base enough money to survive. To state the question is to show how irresponsible this Congress and the Administration are. [Updates from Jane and Marcy] So I have a modest proposal for fixing this.
Let’s accept the standards Congress and the Administration are imposing on Detroit and apply them equally to Congress and the Executive Branch.
Congress is hiding behind the principle that those who lead large organizations should be held accountable for the catastrophic consequences they produce. Executives and oversight boards should either be replaced or be forced to take massive cuts in compensation, even down to $1 per year. And compensation incentives should be restructured to encourage long-run viability, rather than short-term gains. Labor, of course, should be humbled, forced to give up jobs, wages, collective bargaining, absorb large increases in health care costs, forgo retirement assurances and so on. After all, America’s workers are solely responsible for the state of our economy, the argument goes, because they failed to share in its gains.
So what would that mean if we applied these principles to Congress and the Executive Branch? After all, their collective incompetence, corrupt oversight and abysmal management have enriched the financial sector but left it incapable of lending money to an economy and auto industry desperate for credit. In fact, our government’s "business model" has failed in about every way possible.
Here’s a list of things we should do to restructure the compensation/incentive packages for Congress and senior Executive officials:
1. Reduce everyone’s pay to $1 per year until the recession is officially over.
2. Increase the deductible/co-payment requirements on their health plans to 100% and only decrease it in steps as more and more uninsured Americans are provided with full health coverage equivalent to that Congress now receives.
3. Suspend all government contributions to and payments from retirement funds for all current and ex-Congresscritters and senior Executive Branch officials. Restore them only on the passage of comprehensive retirement reform, beginning with broader funding of, and greater benefits from Social Security. Seek repayments from anyone named Bush and all those who supported his privatization of SS.
4. Replace all government provided limos and other transportation perks with bicycles, and do not provide auto transportation for officials until Congress has passed and the President signed a comprehensive energy and global climate change bill.
5. Enact a statute prohibiting any senior government official from being subsequently hired in any private sector position unless and until the nation’s unemployment rate returns to 5 percent or less.
It’s just a start, and more will be needed, but as someone recently advised me, the principle destroying Western civilization is the notion that elites should be exempt from the rules they apply to everyone else.