May 12, 2005

Extreme Makeover: Government Edition – Part 1: Eliminate Corruption

It’s so easy for anyone with a computer and some anger to put hands to keyboard and criticize the President or any of his neo-con henchmen for the things they’ve done. People make careers over just such a practice. Funny thing about criticism though… It can be helpful and it can be hurtful. It can be constructive and it can be destructive. But what good is it if it’s irrelevant. So many of us criticize the Administration for what they’ve done, but how many have stood up and said how they would do it? Not very many I would say. And who do you know has stood up and recommended radical change? No one that I know of – so let me be the first. This will be a multi-part article, but I have no idea how many parts there will be. After all - the subject is so vast it could be endless.

There’s a fundamental problem with our government. It’s inherently corrupt. Corruption is built into the system. Let me lay some groundwork…

First of all the reader should understand that government is all about politics, and politics is all about money. In order to get elected, a politician needs lots of money to buy the best propaganda & promotion. And where do they get that money? From political contributors, of course. Lots and lots of political contributors. So by design, when a politician gets into office, their allegiance is not to their constituency, but to their contributors. The decisions they make, and the causes they advocate, are not necessarily in the best interest the people, but instead in the best interest of their contributors. There’s only one way to resolve this – campaign finance reform.

Campaign Finance Reform

What we have today isn’t anything close to real campaign finance reform. After all, it’s not in the politician’s interest to truly reform campaign financing because it’s their source of funding and power. When I say campaign finance reform, I mean publicly funded elections. If you open your mind wide enough to get beyond the fact that the corrupt politicians would never go for it, it really makes sense. With our system as it is, only rich & well-connected (read ‘financed’) people could possibly be elected. And when they get into office as ‘lawmakers’, whom are they making the laws for - the betterment of the people? I don’t think so.

All elections should be publicly funded and private political contributions should be outlawed. This is the only way to ensure that everyone has a fair shot, that it’s controlled, that opposing candidates spend the same amount of money to get elected, and most importantly, that the elected politician governs in interest of their constituency instead of their contributors.

At this juncture the short-sighted tax payer is saying to themselves “I don’t want my tax dollars going to finance so-and-so’s campaign!” Here’s a newsflash for you: you’re paying for it either way. Taxpayers are also consumers, and like it or not, they’re financing political coffers through the price of the products they purchase. So if you can get past the fact that you’re paying for it either way, there’s only one real question: Do you want your elected officials with or without corruption?

Conflicts of Interest

This goes under the same heading of politicians making decisions in the interest of their constituency. A lawmaker should never, ever, ever be in the position to make a decision or advocate for a cause where they have a personal stake in the outcome. Unfortunately, conflicts-of-interest have been the hallmark of the Bush Administration, not the least of which are the Bush family ties to Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family. And don’t get me started about Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton, which are well documented. It’s nothing short of unconscionable that the Vice President of The United States is receiving compensation from a company that is winning no-bid contracts from the government to the tune of billions of dollars. These conflicts-of-interest in the Bush regime are just the tip of the iceberg, probably worthy of an article all its own.

Presidential Term Limit

Remember I said “radical change”? Well, here’s a huge one. The President should be elected for just ONE six-year term with NO possibility for re-election. Think about how much effort the President spends in his first term trying to get re-elected. Think of how much time the President spends as a ‘lame duck’ in his second term if he gets re-elected. If the President were elected for just one term from a publicly funded campaign, s/he might actually govern in interest of the people, not in interest of keeping his/her job.

Code of Ethics

There needs to be a concrete tool to keep our lawmakers in check. These people are elected for the purpose of steering our country, and their behavior must meet the very highest ethical standards. There must be a zero-tolerance policy for violating standards of ethical conduct. And the Ethics Board must be an independent, non-partisan panel, itself scrutinized for conflicts of interest.

Remember - “radical change” is what is needed to eliminate corruption in our government. I bet lawmakers currently in our government wouldn’t have the chutzpa to even suggest radical change. But the first one who does will get my vote.


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