The Ways of Washington

As I write this, I’m listening to the President’s weekly address. He says we will get new teachers in math and science,  modernize  healthcare systems, construct a new electronic grid,  rebuild our crumbling roads.  All of this creates 3mm new jobs,  He also outlined his commitment to transparency with this incredibly engaging idea of recovery.gov.  But unfortunately for America, most people, especially people in high office, don’t have President Obama’s values.

Those that serve often want to get paid when they leave offce.  Call it the high-office entitlement.  Obviously people have a right to maximize their earnings.   President Obama will have a very difficult time enacting tougher legislation for lobbyists because so many powerful politicos in washington have a vested economic interest in protecting the status quo.  To his credit, Obama has made members of his administration sign contracts that forbid them from lobbying for a period of time, but I think it’s only a year or two.   But Washington is a place where ideology often fades as those young people that show up have children that they need to send to private school.  Those ideologues decide they want a house on the Chesapeake Bay.  Tom Daschle was one of them.

Tom Daschle traded on his long and distinguished tenure in Washington to make money and enjoy life in the private sector.  He was surprised to lose his senate seat and his consolation prize became getting rich by helping a number of companies that we would not typically associate with Daschle influence legislation.  Daschle’s early support for Obama helped legitimize his candidacy.  Daschle is a good guy who always lead the senate with a thoughtfulness and integrity.  And now he’s out.  Simply because he let Leo Hindery provide him with the good life that he used to have as a Senate Majority Leader without paying for it.

I’m at a point where I want to stop giving the political death penalty to distinguished civil servants who would help the country.  Daschle owed about $150k in taxes.  Couldn’t he just pay a triple penalty on that and we could let him back onto the team.  Maybe it should be a 10x penalty.  Too many good people,  will never serve in our government for a variety of reasons that just don’t seem like that big a deal.   Shouldn’t I have some ability to pay a hefty fine for my sins in order to try and take a job as a civil servant?

The irony is people can serve the government, then leave it, and trade on their connections and knowledge to benefit just about anybody they want including foreign governments and  companies they may or may not have America’s best interests in mind.

Maybe we should show a little more flexibility in the confirmation process and bolster the limitations on ex-government officials as they depart.

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