Focusing on finding common ground in a log jammed Washington and emphasizing execution over policy were the themes of my blog last week. A polarized electorate, split Congress, narrow majorities, and little incentive for legislators to achieve results makes it necessary to focus on scoring wins, however small that can snowball to create momentum. How do we get elected representatives to debate yes, but ultimately to collaborate, construct and create a stronger country than the one they inherited? How do we drive the right behaviors without a pay for results model? I wish we could secure systemic alignment of legislator compensation to results.
This is why I am enthused by the "no budget, no pay" provision offered by House Republicans in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint. I do not know how this can be accomplished, but it is the type of bold move to change the status quo that we must encourage.
The administration, Congress and our country face challenges. While we are economically better off than most other developed nations, our annual GDP growth rate of 3.4 percent, achieved over the last 100 years are forecast to grow at less than half that pace at 1.4 percent. This, along with unemployment that continues to be stubbornly holding at rates over 7 percent don't afford legislators the luxury of kicking the can down the road or not passing legislation till the last minute. Yet that is exactly what we have done as evidenced by the roadmap below:
Dec 1, 2010 -- National Committee Report On Fiscal Responsibility & Reform: Simpson-Bowles
Aug 2, 2011 -- Budget Control Act of 2011: Joint Committee authorized to produce legislation by November
Nov 21, 2011 -- After 4 months, Super Committee's failure to reach agreement triggers provision of Budget Control Act 2011 for cuts unless legislation is signed by Jan 2, 2013
Jan 1, 2013 -- After 13 months and almost to the last minute, measure passes the Senate at 2 AM
We send legislators and politicians to DC not just to debate, but also to discuss, decide, and do: to be the few to do good for all. The American people and businesses that create jobs require predictable policies and action. Bickering and brinksmanship do not serve our interests: not a single budget has been passed in four years and the country has been held hostage from fiscal cliff to debt ceiling without any consequences to legislators pocket books. It is time to do away with archaic systems and pedagogic processes. Expertise on House and Senate procedures is not what we require; we need the willingness to get the country moving forward with fresher approaches and by installing process that provide incentive to take action. Congress appears to march to a tune of "why simplify it, if we can complicate it". Elected representatives, and over time political appointees and government employees must not be paid for following process divorced from results. Their salaries and personal gain must be aligned to public good, and to the measurable results they deliver. Pay for performance goals must include the good housekeeping variety where no harm is done to the country: this requires voting and gaining agreement on annual budget, and addressing fiscal challenges. And their goals must require working together to find ways to move forward on at least three priority issues of the Administration. Governing is not easy. It requires collaboration and compromise. Our elected and appointed leaders raised their hands to serve, and then raised it again to swear, "I do." It is time to hold them responsible to the oath they took.
I am encouraged that some legislators have proposed pay for results via a "no budget, no pay" provision as the modus operandi for the next three months. Why not make this the norm going forward? On inaugural day in 1961, JFK told the American people to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". On this inauguration of President Obama's second Administration it is appropriate for the people to deliver the same message to our legislators and leaders.
A pay for results model based on goals delivered is nothing new: it is how good businesses operate. Having served in the Administration and in the private sector, and having seen the working of the legislative branch, I know that the US Administration is more than USA, Inc. Governing is more complex than running a business, but not as complex as it is made out to be. Good practices from one sector can be applied to another. Paying for results when we are running such big deficits is a small first step in the right direction.