Washington Culture

The culture of Washington, DC is a big problem. It has become an orchestrated sort of four dimensional revolving door in which the players shape-shift from politician to lobbyist to journalist to regulator, with offshoots like Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador, "Czar" and Special Emissary. They go round and round, scratching each others' backs in an upward spiral sucking money out of the country to the Imperial City.  

In 1974, 3% of retiring policymakers became lobbyists. Now 50% of senators and 42% of congressmen do. Six of the top 10 richest counties in the US surround Washington DC. Government employees make 78% more than the private sector. Washington now has a higher income per person than Silicon Valley. Do we really want a society where becoming part of the political machine is the easiest path to wealth? Are there any nations that have prospered using that model?

It will be a tough job to improve this situation. I have some proposals as a start:

  • Congress should never be exempted from laws they pass affecting the rest of us.
     
  • Terms limits: Three terms for Congress, two terms for Senate. With retirement benefits in line with the private sector. 
     
  • Periodic reviews by independent auditors, assigned at random, of bureaucratic departments to compare pay and benefits to the private sector. 
     
  • Reform the civil service work rules that prevent the firing of under-performing employees. No more VA paralysis.
     
  • Require a signed affidavit warranting the full reading of a bill before voting on it.
     
  • Like 33 states, a "cooling off" period before a legistator can become a lobbyist. FEC reporting of any post-legislator income from interests affected by a during-legislator vote.

 

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