The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 27, 2012

A new Contract with America

The Daily Item

— The House of Representatives will not be in session today, according to a report on NBC, and time is running out for the federal government to make an agreement that will avoid the self-imposed fiscal cliff.

Tax increases and government spending cuts are scheduled to begin next week. How that will shake out exactly is open to some interpretation, but we have published the independent analysis that says many of America’s working families will automatically be paying $2,000 to $6,000 more in taxes.

This would be a grumpy start to the new year for most of us and an inauspicious inauguration into new terms for most members of Congress.

Maybe it is time for a new contract with America, one that links elected federal and state representatives of the people to the actual outcomes their representation bestows upon the public.

How would that work?

- Offer members of Congress the same security we find in our courthouses and public schools. No Capitol police. No barriers. No searches or electronic scanning or surveillance. Congress could have a couple of semi-retired guys armed with a radio — maybe one at each entrance.

- Benefits could be pro-rated to hours on the clock. Fewer than 30 hours on the job would not earn health care and other benefits reserved for full-time workers. A manager from one of America’s thriftiest big box corporations could decide how many hours Congress needed to be in session and whose presence was necessary any given week.

- Pay rates wouldn’t be set by laws voted by recipients. No-no. What a congressman or senator earned would be a version of commission, tagged to the well-being of his or her district. The base rate could be something like one and a half times the average annual household income, but it would go up or down or be frozen in place based on what happens to voters’ pay back home.  

- Unemployment is another issue. There would be a standard number of government office staff for each elected official, but those government staffers would be cut back or laid off at the rate of unemployment in the district.

We could go on. The point is someone has to lead this country out of a tight spot and we might do a better job of it if people inside the Beltway knew what it was like to feel the pinch.