Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Culture of corruption

Thomas Sowell persuasively advocates single term limits – though I’m not sure if I’m completely on board with that. Still, when you look at Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy, it’s difficult to argue the other way.

My idea of good reform is twofold: 1) forget about spending limits and restrictions on gifts. If Abramoff wants to cater a Scottish golf trip or a $20+ dinner for DeLay or whoever, more power to them. Just make it transparent. If George Soros wants to bankroll half the Democratic candidates – why not, so long as the rest of us can know it? We need to move away from criminalizing politics. 2) The incentive for lobbyists like Abramoff comes largely from Congress’s purse strings. By changing how pork projects are added to bills and by changing the circumstances that lead to big omnibills, perhaps some of that incentive could be eliminated. The same could be done in the overall legislative process. The end result should be that legislators still bat for their states but through creating a pro growth environment instead of feeding at the money trough. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much political will for that.

As an aside: one very faulty way of assessing a legislator is by measuring the amount of tax dollars leaving his state to the incoming federal dollars. It was once pointed out to me that Oklahoma reps were low on the totem pole in this regard. However, that yardstick perpetuates pork problems. By putting in reps who promise to get as much federal dollars back to their state, you’ve effectively elected a person dedicated to pork spending.

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