Imagine for a moment that you had to pick between the following two candidates:
Candidate A: This candidate voted to give their self a 62% pay raise. Imagine that this same candidate held a second job--understandable since the legislature is only part-time. But now imagine that this candidate sent a bill to the State for time served in the legislature when, during the same time period they worked their second job. Finally, imagine that this candidate ran ads telling their constituents that their opponent "doesn't care about us and wants to divide our city."
Candidate B: A family man who has seven year's experience owning and operating a restaurant. Political experience: zilch. But he has paid his taxes on time and is not involved in the middle of a scandal. In fact, he wants to make it mandatory that ever dollar the State spends be put up on a website that explains in Plain English what that dollar was spent for and why.
Which candidate would you vote for?
Ok, this might take some thought. Surely, you don't want a hack to get into office. Being the candidate with no prior political experience is like the writer trying to publish his first novel: it's a Catch-22 of he can't get published because he hasn't been published before. Furthermore, the incumbent has plenty of experience whereas the new kid on the block does not. But that also means that the incumbent has a track record that can be examined.
Let's take a look shall we?
Wouldn't you vote to give yourself a pay raise? It's not like anyone could punish you for doing so. You just have to cast your vote YES or NO. And it's not like you have a contract that expires either. All you have to do is convince the same bunch of people that gave you the job four years ago to continue to keep the job. This helps if you've voted in favor of social programs that give money away to your supporters.
And who wouldn't double bill these days given the chance. As the 2005 Academy Award Wining Best Song's title tells us, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." Every penny counts, especially since Washington is writing blank checks for economic theories and social programs that haven't proven to work towards building a stronger economy or a better future. But it sure does feel good giving all that money away, especially when it isn't yours to give in the first place.
This begs the question: if you would do either of these things given half the chance, wouldn't you vote to send Candidate A back to the State Senate where they could continue to vote themselves pay raises and pick up a different second, part-time job? Similarly, if you support and would engage in this kind of behavior, wouldn't you oppose someone coming in to stop said behavior?
If you believe that this kind of behavior is acceptable, why do you believe that? Do you think you're entitled to a pay raise with which to double bill, a practice that is a criminal offense? Why do you think you deserve this kind of power and not your neighbor? Most importantly, what are you going to do when the money runs out after you've voted again and again to keep giving yourself a raise on a whim as if satisfying a sweet tooth? Furthermore, how stupid do you think people have to be to keep voting you back to this power time and time again?
There's a better way and it's called reform.
See, by making government spending more transparent, it holds the legislature's feet to the fire of accountability. So go ahead and vote yourself a pay raise. Guess what happens next election cycle if your constituents don't think your worth that raise? That's right, you get voted out on your a$$, no longer able to suck on the teat of the taxpayers. Transparency will also lead to swifter, citizen initiated investigations as there will be more eyes on the page to peruse the records for discrepancies.
The additional benefit to accountability is that since there will be less of a temptation to freely spend taxpayer's money, there will be less spending in general and more prudent investing occurring. In turn, this will mean more money in the coffers of the State to do the people's bidding without having to suck the people dry in the form of tax increases.
Accountability means more than everyone having a slice of the pie; it means having more pie for everyone to enjoy.
Now, here's the twist: for those of you living in Alabama's Seventh District, this isn't just a mental exercise. It's your duty to choose between these two candidates tomorrow, June 9th. For those of you who want accountability, vote for Paul Sanford. For those of you who want to promote selfishness at the expense of the community at large, vote for Laura Hall. The choice is yours.
Originally published at http://alabama.newsplatoon.com/2009/06/08/accountability-or-selfishness/