Big Rock Candy Mountain

The official voice of the Deseret Liberation Organization

Congressional dorms?

Yglesias weighs in on the often idiotically reported issue of a congressional dormitory and gets to the bottom of the issue:

The larger issue here, however, is that members of congress and high-level executive branch officials need to be paid more. These people make decent salaries — they’re not poor. But at the same time, folks like a backbench member of the House of Representatives or the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America are supposed to be important actors in American society. It’s not a good idea for them to be making orders of magnitude less money than important people in the private sector. Somewhat less, sure. But over time the relative salary of a cabinet secretary versus a corporate executive has eroded enormously for no good reason — it’s not as if the budget savings involved are large enough to make an appreciable difference.

Meanwhile, this becomes a problem when you get deeper down into the regulatory agencies. If the EPA is supposed to be able to assess the level of pollution somewhere and take a bad actor to court if he violates the law, then the EPA needs to have good scientists and good lawyers working for it. That means those people need to be paid salaries that are competitive with what people in those fields can make in the private sector. If you don’t do that, then you either get people who are incompetent or, worse, the “revolving door” phenomenon in which the real value of government work is to cash in later by defecting to the private sector in a way that corrupts the regulatory process.

Great insight. Our greatest geeks should have more incentive to work for the public good. I know I might.

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Filed under: Politics

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