That we all pay the salaries of our elected and appointed representatives in these days of dysfunctional economy and legislatures, is beyond galling. Mention firing legislators for failure to reach compromises and pass legislation, or tying Federal Reserve board member's salaries to economic performance at your next barbeque, and you will surely liven up the party.
We absolutely want parity in the work place when it comes to performance and consequences -- fair and equal treatment across the board. Ahh, if it were only that simple?
The attraction of rewarding public officials for a job well done beyond re-election doesn't set well. After all, they're not commissioned sales reps. Yet the idea of penalizing that which can be construed as poor performance is overwhelmingly attractive -- and of course varies among cultures. Today's WSJ reports that "The Bank of Japan said this week that for the next two fiscal years it will slash the annual salary of Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa--whose job it is to try to end the country's persistent deflation--by nearly a third. His pay will drop to ¥23.96 million from this fiscal year's ¥34.22 million (about $286,000 from $409,000)."
This would never work in the U.S. -- and would we want it to? Probably not. An unfortunate aspect of human nature is that we somehow feel better when we can blame or punish an individual or group for a problem. When in fact -- while the circumstances are nearly always far more complex and systemic -- we're surprised when these punitive responses fail to improve the situation.
I have a radical idea: Hire, elect and pay outstanding candidates -- based upon proven performance in relevant arenas -- to accomplish that which we need accomplished with well studied bench marks and terms. Now of course there's far more to resolving our public governance debacle than this, but it's certainly a start.
So in this major election year -- regardless of your political leanings -- narrow your list of priorities that need to be accomplished and support the candidates who have the knowledge, negotiation skills and most proven track record to accomplish them. And if you're concerned about how much we pay U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, "his salary has been frozen at $199,700 for several years."
Blame and shame simply doesn't work. We almost always get what we pay for.