It appears, ladies and gentlemen, that former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) business experience may be less ruthless than we thought – or, at least, he’s finally directing his ruthlessness in the right direction. According to his financial disclosures, he is worth a quarter of a billion dollars, which would easily make him one of the richest presidents in history were he elected. So he wouldn’t need that $400,000 annual salary provided by taxpayers. But what if he and other politicians were compelled to deserve it before they received it?
That’s the broad stroke of one of Romney’s newest ideas: incentive pay for politicians. The more work you do, the more you get paid. Of course, if this were in place now, he would point out with glee how little President Obama would get. That automatically opens up the floodgates to a sea of sticking points accompanying this plan.
For example: How exactly would we define a “result” in terms of a politician’s work? They would be different between the three branches of government, for one thing. They’d be even more different when you looked at all the various levels of responsibility within those branches. And who would decide which of these “results” is enough in the interests of the American people to merit incentive pay? The party leadership? Special interests? Voters in monthly referenda on how much of their money they want to send to Washington? (Answer, from practically all of them: zero.)
Second: Even if we answered the above question, would a politician operating under this system receive any money at all if he didn’t rack up any results? Would the starting level be zero dollars? The national average minimum wage? Their current salary? I’d vote for zero, personally, but I’d accept minimum wage. And what about the politicians who were already so wealthy – and continuing to become so through investments – that they still didn’t bother doing any work, while looking good to taxpayers in the process?
Romney’s proposal seems both simple and innovative when it first enters your mind, but 30 seconds of pondering is enough to make you realize how much trouble it creates. If he wants the same result with a lot less complication and (at first) even more savings, he should rally behind No Budget, No Pay. Obama hasn’t, so there would be a major initial political upside. And he has a history of putting his own money where his mouth is on stuff like this. It’s perfect.
I have to admit, Romney’s talk on paying politicians has made me respect him a little more. If he had a history of job creation as a state executive to match, we’d be in business.