Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gregg Easterbrook: Constitutional genius?

Not only am I a political obsessive, I'm also a football obsessive. I check the sports sites such as ESPN every so often, and every Tuesday keep an eye out for Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ weekly rantings.

This week, he's working on the insanity and imbalances of the draft, but he also goes off on tangents and talks about other topics, sometimes politics. Halfway through his article for April 22nd, he goes off on the insanities of the Presidential campaign, and makes a pair of suggestions that once I read them made absolute perfect sense.

He points out how Presidential campaigners during the primary tend to be sitting elected officials (such as the current three survivors, McCain Obama and Clinton), who divide their time between campaigning and performing their elected duties. Easterbrook notes how they can't really campaign and work as Senators at the same time, and so suggests that in order to run for the office of Presidency you have to resign your current job and focus full-time on the campaign.

This makes truckloads of sense. Rather than stretching yourself thin juggling twenty things at once, you can now focus on just the campaign and juggle five things instead. Also, a resign-to-run law is honest, as you no longer get an income for a job you're not really doing (note the occasional dust-up in the press about who's absent during floor votes). Lemme quote from Easterbrook here:

States including Arizona, Florida and Georgia have in recent years passed "resign to run" laws that require an office-holder seeking higher office to resign from his or her present position. The time has come for a resign-to-run law at the federal level. Membership in the U.S. Congress should not be treated as a lifetime entitlement that pays whether you perform your sworn responsibilities or not. In 2007, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, then in the Democratic field, actually moved to Iowa and lived in the state -- yet was still taking his taxpayer-funded salary for serving the people of Connecticut, a job he was making no pretense of performing. It may be nonsense that the current political reality requires a year of round-the-clock campaigning to win a party's nomination, but taxpayers should not subsidize this nonsense.

As a back-up proposal, Easterbrook suggested that Congress goes back to a per diem salary: get paid for the days you show up to work. Given that Congress has been and will always be prone to paid vacation leaves up the wazoo, and given that members of Congress have a habit of not showing up half the time anyway, why pay them for the days they're not clocking in? Forcing a per diem salary encourages they show up and do their jobs and be held accountable. I love that idea.

Yo, Easterbrook, dude, why aren't you writing for the Washington Post or New York Times? Oh, right. They don't hire columnists who make sense.

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