Do You Really Want Politicians to Be Short of Cash?

For those worried about political corruption, now is the moment of maximum danger.

Stripping politicians of their paychecks is very appealing, until you think about it.

Thanks to Controller John Chiang, Californians have an opportunity to think about it. And we should be worried.

One reason to pay elected officials healthy salaries, as we do in California, is to limit corruption.

You don't want politicians worrying about how they're going to meet the mortage or pay bills. You want them thinking about doing their jobs.

Relieving them of their salaries as punishment for not doing what you want is not going to create focus. It's going to create mischief.

Say you're someone who wants something corrupt from the legislature. Wouldn't now be the perfect time to get it?

Find a legislator who isn't independently7 wealthy and needs the paycheck, and offer him and her some cash to pay the bills, or a promise of future employment. In return, ask for a favor.

You might well get it. Right now, buying influence may never be cheaper.

Would such an offer be illegal? Quite possibly yes, and certainly unethical.

But there are plenty of people right now already hurting, overextended on housing, coping with job losss in the family. Some of them might even be in the legislature.

If the budget fight drags on and legislators aren't paid for much of the summer, we all may soon find out.

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