One part of the culture of corruption that so dominates the Congress today involves the salaries, benefits, pensions, office, staff and travel expenses and other perquisites enjoyed by Senators and Representatives. It’s a veritable mooch-fest – the gory and budget-busting details of which are well known to readers of this august blog of political analysis and opinion – and I’ll spare you the gory details.
According to Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.
Therein lies the problem: Congresscritters from each state draw their salaries and fund their office and travel budgets from tax dollars collected from ALL the states, which means that we denizens of the Garden State are contributing to the franking privileges of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
Worse yet, Congress is responsible for creating the rules and regulations that govern the degree to which they routinely loot the Treasury – sort of like placing the Guild of Old World Vampires in charge of the nation’s blood supply.
As I see it, the problem is one of accountability: on the one hand it’s true that Senators and Representatives are ultimately accountable to their constituents; on the other hand, as long as the cost of pampering them comes out of the national kitty, they are ultimately accountable only to themselves – not a good arrangement if the likes of Princess Pelosi is any indicator.
Thus my proposed 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Every state which sends Senators and Representatives to Congress shall be solely responsible for compensating them for their services and for the remuneration of all expenses arising from their activities during their term of office.
Article I, Section 6 is hereby rendered null and void.
The 27th Amendment is hereby repealed.
The reasoning behind the Hoyas Amendment is elegantly simple and delightfully logical: insofar as Senators and Representatives ultimately represent their states (although, strictly speaking, Representatives go to Congress on behalf of their Congressional districts) why not oblige the states to foot the bill for their time in DC?
Watch how quickly the bloated office and travel budgets shrink faster than George Costanza in a cold swimming pool and dry up more quickly than Walter Donovan after drinking from the wrong Grail chalice: no more Senate cafeteria, no more junkets to Bermuda…no more party flights on Air Force jets.
Since every state would be responsible for paying expenses incurred by its Congressional delegation, you can rest assured the legislature of each and every one of those states will be auditing the expense reports with an electron microscope.
Now comes the objection: how can we be sure a Congresscritter who brings home thick slabs of federal bacon and fragrant platters of federal taxpayer-funded pork won’t be given a free pass for his budget-busting expenses by a state legislature grateful for the largess?
In all honesty, we can’t be sure…life in the real world is messy that way. Nevertheless, consider this: state legislators willing to look the other way and sign off on outrageous Congresscritter expenses will ultimately face the wrath of that state’s taxpayers. Ditto for the offenders themselves, since their expense reports will become legitimate fodder for future re-election campaigns.
The beauty of this arrangement, like the beauty of Federalism, is that it brings accountability – and, ultimately, control – closer to home where it can be more easily managed…or not managed.
To be sure, it’s entirely possible that the electorate of a given state is so incorrigibly ignorant, stupid or mentally incompetent and the legislature of that state so intractably corrupt that their Senators and Representatives are given rein to wallow in a veritable pig sty of lavish salaries, pensions, benefits and perquisites bestowed at the state taxpayers’ expense in what would amount to the fiscal equivalent of desanguination.
New Jersey comes to mind. Let’s say, for example, that the corrupt majority which currently dominates the State House in Trenton decides to bestow a $400,000 annual salary for each of our esteemed Senators (Lautenberg and Menendez), together with a generous annual budget of $50 million each for expenses. To say that largess of this magnitude would seriously compromise a budget already on the verge of collapse would be like saying that a strategically-placed iceberg would seriously hamper the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic.
But it would be New Jersey’s problem and our problem alone. No other state would be asked to pay for our legislature’s absurd generosity and it ultimately would be up to the Tea Parties – and the patriots who populate them – to lead a march on Trenton to correct so egregious an injustice. If they were to succeed, so much the better for liberty and prosperity. If they were to fail, it would not be any other state’s problem.
Vive la Federalisme!