(CBS News) I had a dream the other night. The Ghost of Congress Future took me on a flying tour of Capitol Hill. I couldn't believe what I saw down there -- both Houses of Congress were filled with members. There were lively, spirited, informed debates going on.
"I'm used to seeing members speak to an empty chamber -- what's going on?" I said.
"Oh," the Ghost said, "the people threw out the whole bunch you knew after one of those shut-down-the-government debacles and the people demanded new rules.
"We pay Congress by the hour now, like most of the other government employees, and they don't get paid any more unless they're legislating."
"But it's Friday afternoon," I said, "Why aren't they back in their districts?"
"Because the people stopped paying their travel expenses," the ghost said. "They get one round-trip bus ticket back to their districts a year, so most of them stay here and work. They've actually gotten to know each other, and it goes a lot smoother now"
"Well, you must pay them well," I said.
"Actually we cut their pay," he said. "The people decided a public office shouldn't be the most lucrative job someone ever had.
"We pay them about what school teachers and people at non profits make -- it's amazing! We're getting a whole different class of candidates now, folks who do it for the same reason teachers teach. They want to help others."
Then I was awakened by a noise -- some guy was on TV reciting talking points.
In Washington, the nightmares don't come when you're asleep, but more often when you're awake.