Do-nothing is best

October 23, 1990|By Michael J. O;Neill

When the nation is in mortal danger, it is the duty of every citizen to drop his can of beer and rise to its defense. In this spirit, I am offering a plan to end the mess in Washington once and for all.

This is a pay-disincentive program that promotes better government by inducing the members of Congress to work less or, in a national emergency, to do nothing at all.

The proposal is based on two fundamental principles. One is that the usefulness of politicians is inversely proportional to their activity. The second, derived from Newton's Third Law, holds that every congressional speech produces an equal amount of damage.

From these bedrock truths it follows that when Congress is in recess and the members are off junketing around the world, the government is safe.

The whole history of the country shows that the bigger Congress grows, the more money it spends, the more TV blah-blah it produces, the more it gums up the works.

It took only 91 part-time congressmen, working at $6 per diem, to start the nation. Since then, Congress has expanded its staff faster than the national debt, raised members' salaries to nearly $100,000, accepted millions in special interest gratuities and passed enough meaningless laws to paper China's Great Wall. Yet it can't even adopt a budget on time, or do its duty on grubby issues like the deficit.

My patriotic response is a pay-disincentive program that would work like this: The senators and representatives would be given 60 percent of their salary for the first three months of the year, receive the remaining 40 percent in the second three months and get nothing in the third quarter. In the final quarter they would be required to refund part of their salary for any time worked in Washington. And during a national emergency, severe penalties would be imposed to induce complete inactivity.

The same disincentives would have to be extended to the congressional aides or string-pullers who manipulate our elected marionettes.

The total effect of these reforms would be salubrious. Congressional sessions would be cut short and members would have less time to interfere in the government's business. Mischief-making by staff members and lobbyists would be reduced.

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