There have been a lot of ideas about Congressional salaries flying around the internet in response to Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) calling for a cost of living raise. So I thought what could one more hurt?
My idea starts from the simple premise that compensation drives behavior. If you want people to do more of a certain thing, pay them more for doing it. What I want Congress to do is reduce the size of government.
My proposal is to set the current $174,000 Congressional salary as a baseline and make yearly adjustments to that baseline based on performance. That performance is tied directly to the size of the federal budget. Congressional salaries will change according to the change in the federal budget.
If in a given fiscal year the federal budget is reduced by 2% Congressional salaries will be increased by 2%. Conversely, if the federal budget grows by 2%, Congressional salaries would be reduced by 2%. These salary adjustments will be automatic and would be the only method by which Congressional salaries could be adjusted.
This calculation is not to based on fuzzy Washington accounting. It is not measuring a reduction in the rate of spending growth, it is not inflation adjusted, it is not tied to GDP or any other easily manipulated government statistic. It is simply a comparison of how many dollars the government spent in one year compared to the previous year.
If some member of Congress wants to propose Medicare for All, or a Green New Deal that will drastically increase government spending, in addition to having to convince the rest of Congress that it’s good policy, they will have to convince them to accept the corresponding pay cut as well.
Compensation drives behavior.