After promising to “drain the swamp,” Donald Trump has assembled a leadership team of billionaires, bankers, hedge fund guys, and the power-mad detritus of the Republican party. Sad! We could still drain that swamp with a couple of easy rules.
We are facing a presidential administration run by a billionaire, with multiple billionaire (and triple digit millionaire) cabinet members, with more combined wealth than tens of millions of Americans put together—people who have made the attainment of money, rather than the attainment of ideals, the defining purpose of their lives. It’s hard to imagine that this is what all those Trump voters who wanted to stick it to the establishment were looking for.
America tends to get rich, self-serving, egotistical leaders because we do not have disincentives in place. Those who are rich, self-serving, and egotistical can now rationally say that politics is an advantageous field for them to enter—usually to the detriment of the rest of us. Instead of making “public service” a job in which it is easier to serve yourself than the public, we could easily make it a job that only people with a true passion for public service would pursue. There is no reason to allow our politicians to mouth the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” without living up to it themselves. So, for the most powerful and coveted jobs of all—President of the United States, along with cabinet members—I suggest the following tweaks:
- Upon election or appointment, the personal assets of the President and cabinet members are liquidated and deposited into the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. They will be used to help pay for the government services that the President and cabinet members create and administer. The officials will receive an allowance to cover their food, housing, health care, and all other essentials while they’re in office.
- After leaving office, the President and cabinet members receive an annual pension equal to the U.S. median household income (currently about $52,000). They are not allowed any other income for five years after their term ends.
Will this dissuade very wealthy people from entering politics? Good. Will this dissuade “the best and brightest” from entering public service? Not at all. There are tons of people working at nonprofits and schools who are just as good and bright as anyone working in a high-paid Wall Street job. If you believe the “best and brightest” are all wealthy, you should get out more.
What this rule would do is to ensure that the people we entrust with the most power will want those jobs because they feel very strongly about promoting ideals, and not because they believe they can leverage those jobs into wealth and fame. These rules do not discriminate based on political party or ideology. For anyone whose strongest desire is to change the world for the better, their personal net worth is a tiny price to pay in exchange for access to this much power. All of the conflicts of interest that our current president-elect is so boldly ignoring would disappear if we took all his assets. Then, the only interest he would have would be Making America Great.
Any cabinet that “looked like America” would have a median income of about $52,000 per year. We can make that dream come true.