Friday, December 30, 2011

Warren's Winds of Change

Normally I am not a fan of chain emails, but I recently received one that was different, insomuch as it was Liberal. I don't think I've ever seen a Lefty chain email before. Was it always a tactic of the Right that has now been co-opted, or did I just not have enough Lefties in my contact list?

Although, upon closer inspection, it turns out to be... kinda Right.

_*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*_

1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.

This is as terrible an idea as not paying Congressmen at all. What it does is says that only rich people can serve in office. Ordinary people can't spend 20 years serving their country because then they wouldn't have a retirement.

In a free market, you get what you pay for. Warren Buffet suggesting we should pay the managers of the Free World less is not really a free market sentiment. It's more of a "Let's make sure Congressmen can be more easily bought" sentiment.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

Congressmen have been paying into SS since 1984.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

I looked up the Congressional retirement fund. It's what we here in Australia call a "defined benefits" plan, in that you are guaranteed a fixed rate of return. A stinky sweet deal? Sure. Defined benefit plans are hard to come by these days; only the most prestigious companies and positions offer them. Part of the problem with Congress? Not by any stretch.

The dysfunctional nature of Congress is as obvious as the idea that changing their pay will fix it is absurd.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

Ordinary Americans "purchase" their retirement plan by going into careers that have good retirement plans. This is just another way of saying, "We want our best and brightest to do something else."

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

Congressional pay is set by law. Laws are passed by Congress. Passing a law that says that Congress isn't allowed to change a law is called a Constitutional Amendment.

Again, the problem with Congress is not how they are paid; it is how they are elected. Notice what is missing from this long list of pay reductions? Public financing of elections. You want to radically change who Congress responds to, change how they get elected.

How unexpectedly odd that Mr. Buffet doesn't want to change the staggering influence and access private election donations buys his social class, even while he is so eager to reduce the pay of a social class lower than his.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

And what about the other 8.5 million people in that health care plan? Congress' health care plan is used by many Federal employees. Corporations use their health care plans to attract top quality talent; why deny the government the same incentives?

Unless Buffet is asking for all corporate health care plans to be junked, and all Americans to participate in same health care system (a suggestion I completely support!), he is being a complete hypocrite here.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

This, on the other hand, can't come soon enough. There is no good reason Congress should be exempt from the laws it passes, such as OSHA standards and such.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.

In what sense? We elected representatives, they passed laws, there you go.

But as long as we're allowing the government to renege on contracts, how about we renege on some of those contracts they made with the financier class? Like, for instance, Treasury Bonds. Let's just say that a few billion dollars of T-bills owned by Mr. Buffet are no longer contractually obligating. How about that?

Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

And yet another demand to cripple the government so it cannot effectively compete with corporations. News flash: we stopped pretending the Olympics were for amateurs years ago. Isn't it time we accepted that government is just a large private corporation which we all have one share in? Don't we want it able to compete with other corporations (particularly with the ones we don't own shares in)?

Can you imagine imposing these rules on Buffet's industry? Banks can't offer retirements, or attractive wages; and they have to roll over their top staff every few years. Just imagine what the banks would howl: "We'll lose our top talent! We won't be able to compete!"

Here is Mr. Buffet asking a corporation he competes with to voluntarily cripple itself using rules he would never agree to for his own corporations. I could swear that rings a bell; doesn't that kind of behavior have a name?

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Don't you think it's time?

If you wanted to fix America, you would contact every single person and make them look at the graph I put in my blog months ago: Graph.


This is how you cripple government so it can't compete with corporate power. I happen to live in a country with a functioning government (although the current Parliament is doing its best not to be, its still better on its worst day than Congress is on its best day). None of these suggestions were necessary, and none of them would be helpful

The actual way to fix Congress is to remove the problem. The problem is intransigence. The intransigence is coming from exactly one source: the Tea Party. The Tea Party politicians can afford to be intransigent because their elections are funded by billionaires. Elections are funded by billionaires because they're not funded by the people.

Fix Congress? Fix elections. Look, the interview process for the job already sucks; why make people suck up to billionaires as well?

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