Anti-Washington fervor has reached a new high. According to Gallup, 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of what they see on Capitol Hill. No wonder, considering crony capitalism has enabled the two parties to rack up $15 trillion in debt. The political establishment needs to change.
On Tuesday, Rick Perry proposed creating a part-time Congress by cutting in half the legislative calendar, member pay and office budgets. If the House and Senate fail to balance the budget by 2020, lawmaker salaries would be cut in half once more.
“The status quo is good to the Washington insiders,” the Texas governor said. “It’s good to the overpaid bureaucrats. It’s good for the power-players, who can trade favors to build fiefdoms of influence. Those who got us into this mess will not get us out.”
Mr. Perry also wants to criminalize insider trading by lawmakers, referring to revelations in the explosive new book “Throw Them All Out” by Peter Schweizer about politicians who have hit the jackpot with stock trades or real-estate investments that coincide with their special knowledge of earmarks and other legislation.
The book gives details of Republican and Democratic leaders from the permanent political class profiting from their inside information. Meanwhile, a study this week by the Center for Responsive Politics showed a whopping 47 percent of congressmen are millionaires. The median net worth of a senator in 2010 was $2.63 million and is 11 percent higher than 2009 - despite the bad economy shrinking the take-home pay of ordinary Americans.
So what does the permanent political class think of Mr. Perry’s proposal? The Washington Times asked House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer on Tuesday, and he called it “pandering to the Tea Party.” The Maryland Democrat, in office for 30 years, said, “It is not, in my opinion, speaking to the issues that the American public feels are very, very critical to them - jobs being the No. 1 issue. So I don’t think it’s a very serious effort on his part.”
Hours later, the Lone Star State chief executive went on Sean Hannity’s radio show and responded, “It’s not a surprise” that “career politicians like Steny Hoyer don’t like my plan to overhaul Washington. They’re making a great living up there.” The starting salary for senators and members is $174,000 and goes up to $223,500 for leadership positions.
Freshman Sen. Mike Lee had a newbie’s take. “It’s an interesting idea,” the Utah Republican told The Washington Times. “A lot of state legislatures do it that way and the world doesn’t come crumbling down.”
Every day the Congress is in session, government grows and more borrowed money is spent. America is overregulated and under water. We don’t need more laws, more government programs or more deficit spending. The Founding Fathers never envisioned a legislative branch run by career politicians. Forcing our representatives to spend more time outside the Beltway, living under the laws they make, is exactly what this country needs.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.