April 07, 2006

If I Were President - Part 3 - Finance Reform

Just under a year ago I published an article about corruption in government. Now, as I talk about what I would do "If I Were President", I'd like to draw from that article because I feel the content is still fresh and meaningful, particularly as scandals continue to engulf Washington.

One of the biggest problems with our political system is that our politicians are so utterly corrupt. And the reason they're so utterly corrupt is twofold. Firstly, there is a tremendous requirement for money to finance their campaigns. All of the staffing, promotion & advertising, office supplies, and vote-purchasing doesn't come cheap ya know. Secondly, there is a tremendous amount of money being waved in front of them by lobbyists who represent business interests. These two forces create a vicious & relentless cycle of corruption in our political system. More notably, our 'elected' politicians clearly do not represent the interests of their constituencies, or even the country. They represent, advocate, legislate, and wheedle for the interests of their contributors - big & powerful businesses & industries.

Follow The Money

Now think about the flow of money... You as a consumer overpay for many of the products you consume, because some of that cost goes to finance the product's manufacturer's operations & strategic direction. That manufacturer in turn funnels umpteen thousands (or perhaps millions) of dollars into the coffers of politicians who are on the hook to legislate favorably for them. The politicians, as a way of scratching the backs of the lobbyists & industries who finance them, promote legislation which rolls back regulations and protections, that come back to hurt us. In the end, we as consumers have virtually financed global warming, increased pollution, lower wages, lower standards of living, increased instances of worker fatalities & injuries, increased outsourcing of American jobs, increased deficit & debt, increased war-mongering and violence internationally, etc. I could go on and on.

The point is that the people in Washington, who we've elected (or selected) to represent us, have absolutely no desire, will, or impetus to do so. Their only desire is to create a perception that they represent us, while they really represent their contributors. That's the way Washington works.

Corruption is starting to surface

Over the last few months we've seen a number of political figures disgraced over corruption. Each of them have been Republicans whose thirst for power and money have overtaken their purpose and calling for why they were either elected (or selected) for their position. The most prominent names (Tom Delay, Scooter Libby, Randall "Duke" Cunningham, Jack Abramoff) fill our airwaves with the sweet sounds of Republican/Conservative downfall. However, we know (and hope) that there are many more shoes to drop. We know that Karl Rove had everything to do with the outing of Valerie Plame. We know that Dick Cheney had everything to do with the fabrication & manipulation of intelligence to justify and sell the war in Iraq. We know that Donald Rumsfeld had everything to do with the torturing & mistreatment of detainees in all of our prisons, as well as the complete and utter bungling of every facet of the wars in both Iraq & Afghanistan. We know that Condoleezza Rice had everything to do with the Bush Administration's failure to recognize and prevent 9/11. Again, I could go on and on. And those are just the scandals. But for a deeper look into the Bush Administration's corruption...

A Plug for "Bushit!"

Right now I'm currently reading this publication from Jack Huberman. The long title is: "Bushit! An A-Z Guide to the Bush Attack on Truth, Justice, Equality, and the American Way". Every American must read this book. It's a clear, concise, and cataloged accounting of corruption in the Bush administration. It goes far beyond the scandals and deep into the legislation, appointments, decisions, and policies which were spawned by lobbyist and industry contributions, and resulted in damaging, harmful, and destructive deregulation.

I've also read Huberman's earlier publication - "The Bush-Hater's Handbook: A Guide to the Most Appalling Presidency in the Past 100 Years". This book literally changed my life and set me on a course of political activism. This was published in December of 2003 however, so it's a little dated. "Bushit!" is Huberman's follow-up published in January of 2006. It's nothing short of amazing.

So, what to do...

Before we do anything else, we absolutely must take strides to eliminate, or at least reduce, the corruption in our government. The only way to do that is to eliminate (yes, completely eliminate) the flow of money from lobbies/business/industry to politicians. The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act took some small strides to reduce and regulate campaign contributions, but it didn't go nearly far enough.

Political campaigns need to be publicly financed with tax dollars. I know this sounds radical. On the surface it may even sound offensive if one stops to think that their tax dollars may go to finance the campaign of 'so-and-so' whom they don't want to support. Americans however, need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and realize that either way, we pay for it. Whether it's through the taxes we pay or the products we purchase, we pay for these political campaigns. There are some basic questions each American needs to ask themselves:

  1. Do I want my Senators and Representatives with or withOUT corruption?
  2. Do I want my Senators and Representatives to represent my interests or the interests of their contributors?
  3. Do I want my Senators and Representatives to be constantly trolling for money or doing their jobs?
  4. Do I want my Senators and Representatives and President to steer my country down a dangerous path of pollution, oil-dependency, deficits, deceipt, war-mongering/profiteering, economic disaster, big-brother government, fear, media manipulation, inequality, and American imperialism & arrogance? Or, do I want them to steer our country down a path of world peace, media independence, environmental protection, consumer protection, fiscal sanity, domestic tranquility, civil & human rights, truth, justice and equality?

If you stop and think about it in these terms, it's a no-brainer.


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