The mayor of Washington, D.C., Anthony Williams, has come up with a revolutionary idea that, if followed by him and other politicians, could turn politics on its head and improve the way government functions.
Speaking on a local radio station last Monday (March 29), Williams vowed to improve the dreadful city public schools, or he will resign. Later he qualified his comment, saying he would relinquish control of the schools and "consider" resigning his office if improvements are not made.
I like the first promise. Call it the ultimate in accountability. Suppose voters required their elected leaders to sign a pledge before the election that if their taxing and spending ways, or their legislative proposals, do not produce the results they claim, they agree to resign from office. Like certain court proceedings that require someone who sues to pay for the defendant's legal fees if he loses, a promise to resign from office should one's ideas prove a failure would make for better, less expensive and more effective government and would get more people involved in the political process from which too many remain cynically separated.
We could give politicians a number of "strikes and you're out" standards. Senators would be allowed to make five mistakes per six-year term, two to three mistakes for House members, who serve just two years.
Here's how it might work. Politicians who vote for more education spending but can't demonstrate that academic performance improves in proportion to increased funding would be charged with one mistake. Those who claim funding for abstinence programs won't reduce premarital sexual activity and are proved wrong get charged with a mistake.
Since there is so much waste, fraud and abuse in government, this kind of accountability would ensure that if politicians wanted to keep their jobs they would start to spend our money wisely, as if it were their own.