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Editorial: Appel’s “no perks” sign of troubling hope

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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Former Sen. Staci Appel, D-Ackworth, who is campaigning to represent Iowa’s 3rd District in the U.S. House, recently announced a pledge to propose cuts in wasteful spending by Congress, as reported in Monday’s issue of The Daily Iowan. The pledge, which lays out a number of guidelines for financial and general political misbehavior, seems quite admirable. Still, such a promise serves as a reminder of a number of issues the United States has faced on Capitol Hill regarding money lust and greed, problems it will probably continue to face for a long time.

To be clear, Appel’s suggested fixes make perfect ethical and logical sense. Lawmakers should be punished for shutting down the government. They shouldn’t receive excessive pensions if they’re collecting income from outside interests — something they shouldn’t be doing anyway. It’s all commonsense stuff, and therein lies one of the issues: A political hopeful can still promise work toward fixing political greed as part of her or his campaign. It’s still a promise he or she can — but don’t have to — make to voters.

Not being morally corrupt, empty on all things ethical, should be a requirement for how politicians operate. There’s absolutely no excuse for the broken cogs of the political machine to rake in fabulously large checks after they retire from punishing the populous with tireless bickering and sluggish progress toward anything even remotely beneficial.

Large companies shouldn’t play puppet master for marionettes in suits. It should be an easy thing for everyone to grasp, not a statement of hope from the mouth of a campaigner. But it is. And for some reason, not everyone seems to be on-board and ecstatic about the idea, which is the second issue.

The Des Moines Register published a statement from a representative of the National Republican Congressional Committee calling Appel’s proposal unoriginal, noting that other Democratic congressional hopefuls have promised similar changes. It is true. It’s a political vote-bargaining tool that’s been used exhaustively in the past. But one has to wonder what an “original” idea would entail.

If a candidate were to promise free ice cream for people who properly recycle as part of their campaigning platform, “going green,” would that be original enough to qualify as a worthwhile pledge? Perhaps, but elected officials would still get away with accepting money from Big Oil.

Maybe, in order to be original, candidates could suggest a rolling admission-type model to weed out the bad apples of the federal government. It could be the sixth part of Appel’s proposal, allowing voters to impeach representatives and senators on the fly and vote new ones in, a constant stream of fresh faces completely unable of being corrupted. It’s a touch dramatic, but it’d certainly get peoples’ interest, even as an empty campaigning promise.

Appel’s promise, at the very least, serves as a reminder that such a “no perks” government is a fantasy that voters enjoy, that promising such a respectable, useful representation is something you can attempt to use to win at the ballots. It serves to the something’s-better-than-nothing mentality.

Election season will display whether Appel’s pledge for a “no perks” government pays off, and it’ll take even longer to see if enough of Washington gets on board to make it happen. It seems like a stretch, but in the meantime, it’s nice to be reminded that such a government could somehow exist, at least in our imaginations.


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