I was reading Ian Welsh, a Canadian political blogger, and his slam on the American left’s assessment of the Greece economic situation, when I ran across two paragraphs from his post that I found so brilliantly succinct that I just had to pull quotes:
Westerners thought that they could have consumer democracy: they didn’t have to participate in it except at election time, when they would vote for parties and platforms paid for and produced by someone other than them. Coke(tm)/Pepsi(tm) politics – you have a choice, you can choose either Coke or Pepsi! Politicians aren’t paid by you (their salaries are the least part of their real income) why would you think they care about your concerns?
You don’t pay for politicians or politics. This is the Facebook rule: if you don’t pay the freight, you aren’t the customer, you are the product. Politicians compete for the money and favors of the rich, and what they sell is the ability to wrangle you: to pass the austerity bills, to cut the benefits, to privatize the jewels of the public system, to force through the multi-trillion dollar bailouts. They control government for the benefit of the rich.
(emphasis by me)
So many people want politicians to be making less money, to relinquish the public salary they’re provided with. This might make sense, given the vast, vast wealth of our current political class, but it’s extremely short sighted. If we want politicians to answer to our demands, then they need to share our concerns and problems. They need to be part of the middle class. Which means they need a comfortable middle class salary, and a comfortable pension when they’re done serving (so they don’t start pandering to future possible employers while in office, deciding policy based on personal gain). It’s really quite common sense, when you think about it from the standpoint of rewards and motivations.