Politicians Raising Their Own Salaries

The City of Mesa Council recently voted to move an ordinance to increase salaries for the Mayor and Councilmembers. With the rising crime, out-of-control homelessness, and crumbling infrastructure in the City of Mesa, it only make sense that the politicians should receive an increase in wages. They are doing such a great job, right! Hmm…

As normal, hardly a word of opposition was voiced, and the ordinance was rubber stamped by those who are largely going to benefit. Mesa voters have been apathetic for years. It’s sad given their history of being highly engaged in their once vibrant city.

Gilbert voters shouldn’t be smug since this same apathy virus is settling into our Town as well. We are not immune from the disease of greed and avarice in our elected officials. Hardly anyone follows the activities in our own Town Council. In the past Gilbert politicians have voted themselves pay increases and large pension plans.

It’s axiomatic that cities and towns who have the highest wages and benefits for their electeds have the worst run governments, highest crime rates, and worst standards of living for the average citizen. (Of course, the vested interests and politicians in these jurisdictions live high on the hog.) Yes, this is one of real the reasons why the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

The issue of politicians voting themselves raises issue isn’t new, but it separates statesman from politicians. Politicians–and the bureaucrats who serve them–regularly seek to combine power and gain. It’s human nature. This is why the Founders principal of separation of powers is so profound. Politicians are simply there to serve themselves. They love the honorifics–of course in the humblest of ways. Politicians love handing out spoils to their favorite special interests, of course. It’s been true for centuries and will continue to be true for many more.

In contrast, statesmen seek to serve for the benefit of others. They don’t seek compensation for their service. They seek to do good. Statesmen are financially secure and don’t allow the vested interests influence their votes, including those benefits that are offered from the bureaucrats.

George Washington was the quintessential statesman. During the Revolutionary War, he only accepted reimbursement for expenses, not a wage of any kind. He turned down a salary as the first President of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin warned American to avoid voting for or supporting politicians who combine power with money. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787 he made a motion–seconded by Alexander Hamilton–to avoid paying the Chief Executive (President of the United States). He said, “Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.”

In his motion, Franklin debunks the often-spoken falsehood by modern-day politicians: “You won’t get good people unless you pay them more.” In short, he believed in the goodness of Americans to public service without pay.

There are plenty of financially secure people to serve, we don’t need to pay or bribe people to serve. It’s not a job or career of any kind and never should be. Career politicians have the worst track record of public service.

To prove this is true, just look at Gilbert. The Mayor’s salary was increased significantly under Mayor Daniels. The next Mayor who was elected has been an unmitigated disaster. The argument that higher wages attracts better politicians simply isn’t true and our current Mayor proves this is true.

Let’s hope our current and future elected officials follow the words and example of our Founding Fathers and drop any notion of increasing salary and wages for politicians. In fact, they should eliminate the salaries immediately. The Founders set the best and highest standard and it shouldn’t be ignored or rationalized away. There are many great people today who serve on public boards and commissions without compensation.

So, what can we do about this? Gilbert voters would be wise to ask candidates where they stand on this issue. If they do, they will quickly find out if they are talking to a statesman or politician. Gilbertonians should follow the Council and engage in a positive and clear dialogue with their current representatives. Let them know where you stand on this and other issues. They are there to serve you, after all. So, help them do their job.