How About a Congressional 'Clawback' for Taxpayers

Suppose you’re a Blue Dog Democrat, and you tell your party leaders you’re going to vote for ObamaCare, and then swear up and down to your home district that you’ll never, never increase their taxes. Just like the president. It’s a flagrant lie, but just say it with a straight face and a sincere look in your eyes, and the media won’t dare to ask any follow-ups. If they do, you just brazen it out.

That’s what we are seeing today at the very top.

If you’re a Blue Dog demagogue, your district may be ready to run you out of town. The media can afford to sneer at the tea parties and the town halls and a million taxpayers marching through D.C. You can’t. You’re afraid of losing your job in 2010.

But suppose Rahm calls and makes certain promises. For example:

If you lose next year, we’ll make you Junior White House Czar In Charge of Pork Distribution.

Or:

If you lose next year, we know a K Street lobbying firm that needs you. Name of Tom Daschle. You’ll be very rich very quick, if you follow my advice.

The voters might think they can throw the bums out. But the career politicians are thinking:

So what if I lose? If I listen to Rahm I’ll just get a promotion: more power, more money, more big titles. I’ve got nothing to lose. Screw the voters. Obama gets my medical take-over vote.

Let’s assume that Rahm and Harry and Nancy have figured this out. How can the voters keep them accountable? There’s no clear way. If you defeat your local Blue Dog fair and square, she or he might just get a fabulous job in the White House as the new czar of czars. What can the voters do? That’s the nature of political machines. Elections mean nothing. Michelle Obama grew up in the Chicago Machine. It’s in her blood.

I think there’s an answer, but it’s not a nice answer. If “nice” is your top priority, get ready to lose your country. These guys play by Chicago rules, ACORN subdivision. It’s in ACORN's manual for organizers: "this is a mass organization directed at political power where might makes right." (Italics added.)

The not-nice answer is to follow the lead of Obama’s salary czar, Kenneth Feinberg, who has announced he will determine salaries for "the top 25 employees at AIG, Bank of America, Chrysler, Chrysler Financial, Citigroup, General Motors and GMAC. ... Specifically, Feinberg claimed broad and 'binding' authority over executive compensation, including the ability to 'claw back' money already paid, and he is weighing how and whether to use that power."

The pay czar apparently has retroactive powers to deprive specific Americans of money they have already been paid under legally binding contracts. If that sounds like an ex post facto law to you, it does to me too. If it sounds like an unlawful taking, or an abuse of the equal-protection clause, you can sue Kenneth Feinberg and the Feds.

Now suppose our politicians decide to stage a “revolution from above,” as Stalin called it, and take the voters for an estimated 13 trillion dollars over the next ten years with an unwanted medical takeover, cap and tax provisions, and the kind of abuse of power that Chris Dodd and Barney Frank have been getting away with for decades, without fear of retribution. What can the voters do?

In 1994 they voted in the Gingrich Congress, electing a GOP majority in the House for the first time in forty years. Four years later Bill Clinton was impeached. Yes, Clinton was never tried or convicted by the Senate. But nobody could have predicted in 1994 that a fabulously popular president would be on the ropes four years later. Those things happen in politics. The fact that they do happen should put the fear of God into the politicians. Or at least fear of the voters.

We need a clawback law for politicians. If your representative or senator deprives millions of Americans of our preferred medical insurance by hook or by crook, if companies go out of business because carbon taxes make it impossible to operate, and if your constitutional rights are materially violated, you should be able to elect a new majority that can “claw back” their ill-gotten gains. Such as depriving corrupt congresspeople of their pensions or clawing back money they make afterwards. It’s the Kenneth Feinberg precedent.

The alternative is a permanent European-style ruling class. In Europe, all politicians have de facto permanent tenure. Obedient party politicians get promoted in the unlikely event they get defeated. That’s what the European Union is about.

The EU provides a lifetime tenure track for politicians and bureaucrats in all the member countries. That’s how Brussels can control everything from the top. Ambitious politicians in Britain, for example, can look forward to better-paying and more powerful positions in Brussels if their party is defeated. That is how British Labor politicians were able to control events from Brussels even after Margaret Thatcher led the Tories to victory. That is also why the EU can keep ignoring the voters who don’t want their countries to get deeper and deeper into the corruption that is Brussels. The EU admits that it has a “democracy deficit,” but it’s in no hurry to change it. It doesn’t need the voters any more.

This is the basic question in politics: How do the people keep power-hungry pols from running out of control? In Europe they can’t anymore.

What about America? I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if anybody knows with this administration.

It’s just possible that the Feinberg precedent may show us the way.