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Protecting democracy means politicians enrich themselves through democracy

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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04 March 2019 09:16
 

I saw this meme on Minds.com, and it ticked me off, because the thinking is backward. If Congress won’t live high on the taxpayer’s dime, then they will live high with the illegal support of the rich. If you want Congress to represent the common people more, then you need to take away the incentive to depend on the rich to live high, and that means legally paying them more and legally giving them more benefits. It is a very small expense for a very large benefit: protecting democracy from the oversized influenced of the rich. Every time a bill to increase salaries comes before Congress, I think we should tell them to vote yes. Everyone benefits but the rich.

https://i.postimg.cc/qvq8BRcT/Nancy-Pelosi-On-Flight.jpg

 
burt
 
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burt
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04 March 2019 13:00
 
Abel Dean - 04 March 2019 09:16 AM

I saw this meme on Minds.com, and it ticked me off, because the thinking is backward. If Congress won’t live high on the taxpayer’s dime, then they will live high with the illegal support of the rich. If you want Congress to represent the common people more, then you need to take away the incentive to depend on the rich to live high, and that means legally paying them more and legally giving them more benefits. It is a very small expense for a very large benefit: protecting democracy from the oversized influenced of the rich. Every time a bill to increase salaries comes before Congress, I think we should tell them to vote yes. Everyone benefits but the rich.

https://i.postimg.cc/qvq8BRcT/Nancy-Pelosi-On-Flight.jpg

The cynic voting guide: always vote for the person who is not in office. Either the person who is in office has made enough to retire for life, or is too dumb to be in office.

There is a need for balance between seeing public office as a matter of public service, and as a lucrative career. An example from another realm of professional choice. Back in about 1975 I shared an apartment with a guy who was a university senior, planning on becoming a doctor. He had, however, made a good deal of money over the summer selling electronic gadgets. Over the time we shared the apartment it struck me that this guy would not be a good doctor (in part an opinion formed after meeting his social climbing and somewhat dishonest parents and realizing that he was cut from the same cloth). He was intent, however, until at a certain point he started thinking about the years of med school and residency. So he dropped out late in his senior year and went back to selling electronic gadgets. Lost track of him, but assuming he didn’t land in jail I suppose that now he’s retired and quite wealthy. The point is that for a career in politics there ought to be a commitment to public service rather than simply making a high salary. Which is not to say that current members of congress don’t need higher salaries.

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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04 March 2019 13:26
 

My presumption is that elected occupants of high office are purely self-interested, either psychopaths or borderline psychopaths. They have to be politically correct on hundreds of issues, and straying too far on even one of the issues tends to be grounds for losing the next election. That would be a good thing. If instead we have a lot of Eagle Scouts motivated by public service, then we will tend to have either ideologues with bad ideas or eclectics with bad ideas. The elected psychopaths will fit their positions to the middle majority of voting constituents on all of the issues, changing with time, and it would be a miracle if any one of them privately believed the hundreds of positions they zealously defend and advance. That system is far from perfect, but it is the best we can reasonably hope for. And that is the ideal; the system is corrupted by the ability of rich people who buy influence by contributing wealth to the candidates, either to their campaigns or to their persons.

 
burt
 
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04 March 2019 16:01
 
Abel Dean - 04 March 2019 01:26 PM

My presumption is that elected occupants of high office are purely self-interested, either psychopaths or borderline psychopaths. They have to be politically correct on hundreds of issues, and straying too far on even one of the issues tends to be grounds for losing the next election. That would be a good thing. If instead we have a lot of Eagle Scouts motivated by public service, then we will tend to have either ideologues with bad ideas or eclectics with bad ideas. The elected psychopaths will fit their positions to the middle majority of voting constituents on all of the issues, changing with time, and it would be a miracle if any one of them privately believed the hundreds of positions they zealously defend and advance. That system is far from perfect, but it is the best we can reasonably hope for. And that is the ideal; the system is corrupted by the ability of rich people who buy influence by contributing wealth to the candidates, either to their campaigns or to their persons.

I’ll disagree on this, it doesn’t fit with my own (admittedly limited) experience. One of my uncles, although not a politician, was in a position of dealing with elected politicians and found most of them to be practical and dedicated. Another uncle was the campaign manager for Southern Arizona for Goldwater’s senate campaigns and had the same reports. For about 12 years my father was campaign manager and then legislative assistant for a California state assemblyman. After his principal retired he continued for several years as a lobbyist, specializing in advising counties that wanted to offer horse racing in their county fairs.  Again, his experiences were that most of the elected officials were quite pragmatic and interested in doing a good job for the public. Politicians have positions that they must support, often as a matter of personal belief, but for the most part I think they are really interested in doing their job as best they can. I also think it’s a mistake to equate interest in public service with holding a rigid ideological position. What I would suspect is that if your beliefs on this became wide spread it would result in a self-fulfilling prophecy (much as when the Soviet Union collapsed, the generic belief there that all capitalists were selfish and only interested in personal profit gave permission for those with the where-with-all to become greedy self-serving capitalists interested only in their own profit).

 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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04 March 2019 16:09
 

My argument applies to members of high office, not to low-level politicians. Low-level candidates can and do have a more unpredictable set of positions, and they can get away with it, because their constituents don’t care so much, whereas high-level candidates are put under a microscope and kept on a tight leash by the public.

 
burt
 
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04 March 2019 19:30
 
Abel Dean - 04 March 2019 04:09 PM

My argument applies to members of high office, not to low-level politicians. Low-level candidates can and do have a more unpredictable set of positions, and they can get away with it, because their constituents don’t care so much, whereas high-level candidates are put under a microscope and kept on a tight leash by the public.

Well, Goldwater wasn’t all that low level. And the other uncle was at a high enough level that he was on first name terms with the state governor and legislative leaders, and nationally in 1968 was being considered in for a cabinet position (but, as it turns out, was thought too liberal). And if you think the constituents for state assemblymen “don’t care so much” you’ve never been involved in “low level politics.” Just because there may be a low voter turnout in some elections doesn’t mean that those who do vote “don’t really care.” Perhaps you ought to start your political education by attending some strata council meetings for condominium associations. Those can get really nasty, and that’s about as low level as you can get. Or, if you want, I’ll get in touch with a friend whose father was the biggest political power in California for a number of years, was a friend of the Kennedy’s, and only retired after losing the California gubernatorial election to Reagan. I’ll ask him his opinion of your beliefs.

 
Abel Dean
 
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04 March 2019 20:21
 

I have lived in many places all over the country, and, it isn’t the way it should be, but the relative indifference to local politics seems to be nationwide. At least a few people care about the local politics intensely (like maybe your social circle?), but almost nobody knows, for example, who their own state senators or state representatives are or what their positions may be. That doesn’t mean such candidates don’t matter, but it means they are much freer to stray from the mainstream of voting constituents, as such deviations have a much smaller effect on their odds of election or re-election.

 
burt
 
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04 March 2019 20:46
 
Abel Dean - 04 March 2019 08:21 PM

I have lived in many places all over the country, and, it isn’t the way it should be, but the relative indifference to local politics seems to be nationwide. At least a few people care about the local politics intensely (like maybe your social circle?), but almost nobody knows, for example, who their own state senators or state representatives are or what their positions may be. That doesn’t mean such candidates don’t matter, but it means they are much freer to stray from the mainstream of voting constituents, as such deviations have a much smaller effect on their odds of election or re-election.

People who don’t pay attention generally don’t vote. So we’ll have to disagree about this.

 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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05 March 2019 07:09
 

Protecting democracy means politicians enrich themselves through democracy

Not if there are sufficient and effective checks in place to prevent this.

 

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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05 March 2019 07:32
 
Jefe - 05 March 2019 07:09 AM

Protecting democracy means politicians enrich themselves through democracy

Not if there are sufficient and effective checks in place to prevent this.

Incentives are about both sticks and carrots. The criminal law is the stick, but we have no carrots. As it stands, only the rich have the carrots, and they use that advantage. Their intermediate effect on the law is measurable. It means the rule of law is weighted in favor of the rich. We can change this with our own carrots, but one persuasive reason not to change anything is predominant: short- sighted petty jealousy.

 
Quadrewple
 
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05 March 2019 12:00
 

Abel, I’m not sure we can make up for the fact that narcissists desire power over others more than regular people do.

So in theory, paying politicians more gives less incentive to use public office to enrich oneself, but in practice would it actually make a difference?  I’m doubtful it would.  I don’t think there are a lot of great people out there who are not seeking political office because it doesn’t pay enough when you don’t engage in corruption.

There’s also the idea that it’s the institutional power that corrupts the individual more than the individual corrupts the institution.  In that case, we have to question our premises about the institution, which is a very lengthy process, and which can only be done effectively when there is a general good will among the people.

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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05 March 2019 13:36
 

Elected officials in high office want power, no doubt. They also want wealth (a form of power). If they accept bribes, then they risk losing their political power. But, if they do not accept bribes, then they may live in debt or live like the middle class. They may accept bribes just because of a rational cost/benefit analysis.  What if we paid them nothing at all? Do you predict that this would have no effect on the rate of corruption?

 
burt
 
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05 March 2019 13:50
 

Checked with my friend and here is his comment:

“A good story of the reality is that my father originally became famous because he reformed the California legislature from a part time rural body into a full time professional body by, in part, raising the legislator’s salaries to professional levels. He became so famous on legislative governance that he was invited to address a number of legislative bodies in other countries including places like Panama and Yugoslavia etc. His friend John Kennedy had the CIA give him a pair of German mini-binoculars and a Minox camera and paid him an extra $100 bucks a day (in cash) for reporting back to JFK thorough the CIA about the political situations in each country he visited (he reported the cash payments on his income tax as poker winnings).

So, a professional salary should be paid that is sufficient to satisfy a professional level of expectation. In California over a $100K for an Assemblyman is not really excessive (80 members for nearly 40 million people).

What my father discovered was that low pay and part time work meant any poor shlub was left to the devices of lobbyists to understand complex modern problems. Of course that also means a professional staff backed by non-partisan analysts. It was how he took California governance from the hands of lobbyists, which at the time was nearly complete control instead of sleazy influence.

You can’t pay minimum wage and have anyone who isn’t completely on the take committed to doing a good job. The problem now is the bribes are in the forms of “campaign donations” that help them get and keep their professional jobs. Citizens United was the most egregious modern paean to corruption imaginable.”

Certainly goes against the idea of term limits, and also highlights the importance of having a good staff of analysts to provide accurate information.

 
Quadrewple
 
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05 March 2019 14:02
 
Abel Dean - 05 March 2019 01:36 PM

Elected officials in high office want power, no doubt. They also want wealth (a form of power). If they accept bribes, then they risk losing their political power.

There’s bribery but there’s also just favor trading, which is not necessarily incriminating and I would argue more common.  Favor trading is directing government money based on whims of the politicians and the people they’re trading favors with, without any direct connection to serving the taxpayer.

If anything, wouldn’t favor trading increase political power?  When I look at the people at the top, I see those who are the best favor traders (in general).

Abel Dean - 05 March 2019 01:36 PM

But, if they do not accept bribes, then they may live in debt or live like the middle class.

For sake of argument, that would be a problem, but it’s nowhere near being the case right now. 

Also, what’s wrong with politicians living like the middle class?  I think that is a premise worth examining further.

Abel Dean - 05 March 2019 01:36 PM

They may accept bribes just because of a rational cost/benefit analysis.

Okay, but that’s true of any bribe.  You don’t hear a lot about people bribing the homeless.  The more power/influence someone has (financial or otherwise), the more attractive they are to bribers.

Abel Dean - 05 March 2019 01:36 PM

What if we paid them nothing at all? Do you predict that this would have no effect on the rate of corruption?

That’s a good question, because it’s not necessarily obvious what the result would be.

Who would accept a job that paid nothing?  Someone who either had all the money they needed or someone who knew they could get rich once in power.  So until we’re in a system wherein the government has less power to influence everything, and there’s subsequently less opportunity for self-enrichment, there is a certain logic to only electing people who are rich.

If we made it so the job paid nothing, we might actually have an incentive to reduce the capacity for corruption.  That doesn’t mean it would work that way in society’s current state, but oftentimes we as humans avoid challenging one premise because we’re too afraid/too lazy to make the new way work (without that premise).

It’s like people who keep failing to stop smoking, but they didn’t even try replacing the negative coping mechanism (smoking) with a positive coping mechanism (such as an exercise/diet habit).  Whether this analogy applies to the specific issue of corruption and the current state of our political system is an interesting discussion.

Whatever we determine to “make work”, we tend to “make work”.  If we were serious about tackling corruption we’d be examining the premises which got us into this bind.

 
 
Abel Dean
 
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Abel Dean
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05 March 2019 14:10
 
burt - 05 March 2019 01:50 PM

Checked with my friend and here is his comment:

“A good story of the reality is that my father originally became famous because he reformed the California legislature from a part time rural body into a full time professional body by, in part, raising the legislator’s salaries to professional levels. He became so famous on legislative governance that he was invited to address a number of legislative bodies in other countries including places like Panama and Yugoslavia etc. His friend John Kennedy had the CIA give him a pair of German mini-binoculars and a Minox camera and paid him an extra $100 bucks a day (in cash) for reporting back to JFK thorough the CIA about the political situations in each country he visited (he reported the cash payments on his income tax as poker winnings).

So, a professional salary should be paid that is sufficient to satisfy a professional level of expectation. In California over a $100K for an Assemblyman is not really excessive (80 members for nearly 40 million people).

What my father discovered was that low pay and part time work meant any poor shlub was left to the devices of lobbyists to understand complex modern problems. Of course that also means a professional staff backed by non-partisan analysts. It was how he took California governance from the hands of lobbyists, which at the time was nearly complete control instead of sleazy influence.

You can’t pay minimum wage and have anyone who isn’t completely on the take committed to doing a good job. The problem now is the bribes are in the forms of “campaign donations” that help them get and keep their professional jobs. Citizens United was the most egregious modern paean to corruption imaginable.”

Certainly goes against the idea of term limits, and also highlights the importance of having a good staff of analysts to provide accurate information.

That’s a great insider perspective. “Professional” would be a word to justify it to the taxpayers. But, I take such pay to be a minimum. They need to be paid like corporate officers in Silicon Valley or Lower Manhattan, in my opinion.

 
Jefe
 
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06 March 2019 15:19
 

They need oversight on their pay and political donations based not on party or corporate needs, but on constitutional and electoral fitness while in office.

 
 
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