The Trust Gap In American Politics

4 Aug

If you’re like me, you’re tired of the the anecdotal arguments, misinformed positions, corporate feeding of astroturf organizations and the general “deluge of dumb” in the current debate about healthcare reform.  It’s a disservice to an issue that will determine the future and perhaps survival of our republic.

Corporate money and influence clouds the issue at a very fundamental level.  Blue Dog Democrats, Republicans and other opponents of a public option are recipients of campaign finance largesse courtesy of the medical and pharmaceutical lobbies.  It is an economy of opportunity that the lobbying groups have created which distracts from the discussion about the health of our people and the best way to provide access to health care.

It is exceptionally clear to me that our legislative system is fundamentally broken.  Our Representatives and Senators are not able to properly and logically address significant problems facing our nation due to the influence of money in politics.  Until we can trust that our representatives are making the right decisions, for the right reasons, sensible legislation is impossible and the public trust compromised.

It’s time to publicly fund state and federal elections.  Eliminating the dependence on lobbying money and focusing our legislators on the tasks at hand is a necessity if this country is to prosper.  It was an idea first proposed by Teddy Roosevelt nearly 100 years ago and it’s time that it be considered once again.

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Limiting campaign donations to an intial amount of $250 with built in increases (tied to inflation) over time and allowing for access to public funding once a certain number of petition signatures are collected is where we begin.  The idea is loaded with details that need to be addressed due to the hundreds, if not thousands, of loopholes in our existing system.

It will not be an easy job to build a new system, but it is the only way in which we can return sanity to our government.  We will also need to address and perhaps limit the power of incumbency to avoid franking abuses and influence gained through seniority.  We now have professional legislators who are simply waiting for the opportunity to become professional lobbyists and trade on the influence accrued while in office.  At the state level, we have hangers-on like Steve Pigeon who can bring to bear the financial resources of one man to essentially throw an entire state into gridlock.  Is this the way we want to be governed?

It should be clear to all, right or left, that the system is fundamentally handicapped.  Monetary influence from unions, corporations, industry associations, PAC’s and other niche lobbies are crippling our ability to tackle the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Corporate donations and industry authored legislation inhibits the proper measurement of costs and consequences when we attempt to address long term deficits, military largesse, foreign policy, climate change, infrastructure, urban planning or skyrocketing healthcare costs.

This video is about the economy of influence and the trust gap between Americans and Congress.  It’s worth the time, please watch it.

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Do you agree with this idea to change the system?  If so, head over to Change Congress and voice your support.

18 Responses to “The Trust Gap In American Politics”

  1. Ethan August 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    That was a good talk there, Larry.

  2. Brian Castner August 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    My concern with public funding is how you “break in.” Who gets funded? Everyone? So if 50 people sign up to run for NY-26, they are get the same funding? Or do you have to win the primary? And when does the public funding start? If you get publicly funded once you “break in,” but can’t raise money otherwise, then the rich and self-financed become our political class, even more than they already are. Only the perosnally wealthy will be able to afford advertising to win primaries and receive the public funding. I don’t oppose the intent, but the devil is in the details.

    As for the rotating lobby door, check out this link from the Weekly Standard’s, your favorite magazine. Its from thier backpage Parody, you’ll appreciate it: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/147ilibz.asp

  3. Eisenbart August 5, 2009 at 4:55 am #

    Could they have picked a worse example than the government covering pension funds of Bethlehem Steel? I mean it was the federal governments inability to protect them from Asia flooding the market. And if the government hadn’t covered their pension they would all be on the system in one way or another and paying for them anyway. They should have left that out because it really conflicts with their lobbyist business model concept.

    Hillary says its not about the money? Be real. “I believe her you should too.” Should have left that alone also, she had campaigns to pay for. Obviously they have a love affair with the Clintons. She sold out. She voted for an “awefull bill” because she was bought not because that’s how the game is played. You can’t candy coat that particular example.

    There was other things that didn’t really add up to me but overall I agree with his end points but he has some polishing to do getting there.

  4. Mike In WNY August 5, 2009 at 8:54 am #

    We don’t need new reform. We need to return to the plan that was laid out. It is the deviation from this plan that results in “dirty” money and the loss of accountability from politicians.

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    • Alan Bedenko August 5, 2009 at 9:35 am #

      What on Earth does your citation to the 10th Amendment have to do with the issue of reformation of electoral funding?

  5. Ethan August 5, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    I don’t oppose the intent, but the devil is in the details.

    Well sure. Isn’t it always? This is why the black & white mentality of our political discourse is so poisonous. But, I digress… here’s my take on somebunall of your useful questions.

    There certainly does have to be a system (and a limitation) on funding- weren’t there something like 150 candidates in the Cali gubernatorial recall election that Arnold won? That’s obviously crazy to contemplate funding. There was is a guy in Boston–Vermin Supreme–who is more of an artist than a real candidate (I think!?! He might but crazy. Or all three!) I’m not sure he should get funded. (I’m not sure he shouldn’t either, I’m jes sayin’)

    Figuring out that mechanism is a sticky wicket, because you do want to balance access with serious intent. Petitions would be useful in that regard: maybe there is a very limited petitioning phase and the top X signature-getters earn funding? Anyway, I’d want a scheme that errs, but slightly, on the side of funding too many over too few, otherwise what’s the point? So you fund a bit of a kook here and there: it’s good for democracy. You want your news to be “entertainment?” Done! (cf Vermin Supreme, above)

    As to your point about the de facto richest becoming the only candidates: why should you be able to donate any more to your campaign than anyone else? The whole idea *is* to level the paying field, (ha ha,) so you are limited to donating to your campaign the same as any other private citizen in this scheme, I’d suppose. Yes, this will piss off the rich people who wanna be politicians (“I earned my money, so why can’t I use it to get me elected!!!”), but you know what: STFU. In America, being rich isn’t supposed to make you any better than anyone else.

    But, I also think it’s important to see these reforms in a broader context that might help guide the way to making those difficult decisions about access. For example, if there is IRV, there are no “primaries,” and the cost/duration of campaigning is reduced: that frees up money, to some degree, or lessons the burden. Similarly, if we limit the campaign season (as Britain does), that also reduces costs.

    It might also be helpful to see “public financing” as being more than just money going from the taxpayers to the bank accounts of candidates- it should or could also include, for example, tv airtime directly (obviously one of the big costs in the first place,) bipartisan get-out-the-vote funding (meaning no candidate funds or organizes that effort), and other things. The more you save, the more candidates you can “publicly fund.”

  6. Ethan August 5, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    Alan,

    Why you even give that guy a tweet’s worth of your time is beyond me. I mean, if you’re feeding the trolls for the google juice/hits/ad revenue, ok, I could see that; I guess we should thank them for helping make us one of the top sites in the area and all.

    But attempting to engage in rational discussion has long ago proven to be utterly futile.

    • Alan Bedenko August 5, 2009 at 11:30 am #

      @Ethan – because it’s fucking hilarious to me.

      @Roaring Republican – I inferred “terrorist” from your use of “shady” and more repetitive use of the word “sketchy”.

  7. Mike In WNY August 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    @Ethan, If you don’t understand something, ask questions or do some research. If you don’t agree, make a valid counter-argument. Using ridicule and marginalization just shows ignorance.

    @Pundit, The purpose of the 10th Amendment was to prevent a top-heavy, centralized, bloated and largely unaccountable federal government. Dirty money is the evil step-child of not sticking to that plan. The 10th Amendment was designed to keep most decision making at the State and Local levels which increases accountability. It also provides for States to try different solutions and discovering what works best. The violations of the 10th Amendment is a primary reason that there are no predominately libertarian states – the federal government has found a way to prevent it. It takes freedom to set up a libertarian state, we no longer have it.

    “Clean Money” is just another pie-in-the-sky, we “gotta do something” program that will not solve anything. It will drive the dirty money further underground.

    • Alan Bedenko August 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

      The 10th Amendment is fucking beside the point.

      The point of Chris’ Goddamned post is that dirty money sullies the United States Congress. Not your state legislature. Not your local town board. The subject matter on the table is the United States Congress.

      Bringing up states’ rights is so completely beside the point that I’m gobsmacked that it’s here. In this thread.

      If this thread was a train going from New York to Boston, your point would be waiting on a platform in Wichita, KS.

      The reason why there are no “predominately libertarian states” is that libertarians say silly and pointless things, and argue like typical zealots who perceive debate to be an exercise not to reach consensus, but instead to proselytize.

      The reason why there are no “predominately libertarian states” cannot, in other words, be blamed on whatever convenient scapegoat you want to construct. It can’t be blamed on the man or on the New World Order or on Federalism or on discriminatory rules or on Socialists or on the media or on the 10th Amendment or people’s non-adherence to it. Nor can it be blamed on the lack of a solid curriculum in logistical theory or thought in elementary school. The reason why there are no “predominately libertarian states” is because no one’s buying it.

      If the Republicans were a Good Humor truck and the Democrats were a Breyers truck, and they pulled up alongside each other to sell minimally differing types of ice cream to a pack of waiting kids on a hot day, the Libertarians would pull up with a truck filled with pamphlets about Austrian economic theory and how toys and candy rot the brain.

      Ultimately, electoral politics is a marketplace of ideas. At least, it’s supposed to be. Part of the problem is that special interest money has poisoned that marketplace, so that the biggest spenders get the most juice. Guess what, most businesses and political donors don’t give a shit about Hayek. They give a shit about getting ahead. If you clean up the electoral funding system we have so that the quid pro quo element is minimized, then even inflexible fringe ideologies like yours may get a shot at attaining in excess of 5% of the Republican vote.

      The reason why libertarians can’t get arrested when election day comes around is because of the libertarians’ fundamental inability to convince anyone to vote for their candidates.

      OTOH, I think many libertarians like it that way. To win elections would eliminate the element of victimhood you guys have so cleverly crafted for yourselves.

  8. Mike In WNY August 5, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    The point of Chris’ Goddamned post is that dirty money sullies the United States Congress. Not your state legislature. Not your local town board. The subject matter on the table is the United States Congress.

    Which is exactly why my comment is completely on point. If Congress had stuck to its enumerated powers, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’ll leave you to stew in the rest of your comment, it is not worth the time to rebut.

    • Alan Bedenko August 5, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

      Which is exactly why my comment is completely on point. If Congress had stuck to its enumerated powers, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

      What does that even mean? That we wouldn’t have a congress? That we should have unfettered campaign finance rules so that businesses and special interests could give millions to candidates at a time?

      Either your comment was not on-point, or it was just the same dumb libertarian “anything goes” claptrap.

  9. Jackstraw August 5, 2009 at 7:19 pm #

    Alan/Chris- The reason that so much money flows into Washington is because Washington has influence to offer. Businessman so- n -so gives money to politician such- n -such and politician such- n -such exerts influence on laws favorable to businessman so-n-so. (Nothing too controversial here) However, let’s pretend for a moment that we wave a magic wand and the federal government now lacks the authority to influence laws that are favorable to said businessman. Would said businessman continue to send money to Washington? (Again, I don’t think that’s controversial either) It is the existence of the power of government force to give a favorable position to said businessman (exemption from lawsuits, tariffs, tax laws, land grants, monopoly, IP etc) that is the magnet for such money. So in adhering to the 10th amendment the influence that congress hands out would largely disappear. The function of the congress would be severely downsized. Businessman such-n-such would need to exert influence on state and local representatives to get what he or she wants. Even better he would have to exert influence on all the state governments in order to get the favored legislation. So we would still have a congress but in theory the closer the representative is to the people the more difficult it is to garner influence from politicians. I being an Anarchist find that a move to the 10th amendment would be a temporary fix. It would be more desirable then the heavy centralized corporate war machine that we have now but give it time and we’ll be right back where we started. I tend to believe that all government tends toward more power and to ask a bunch of power brokers to give up their bread and butter is like asking junkies to give up the juice. Its not that government is broken it’s that government is a bad idea to begin with. This perpetual looking for the right leader is insane. (what’s this about special interests would then be able to give millions …they don’t now?)

  10. Mike Walsh August 5, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    The thing I don’t get is that our progressive friends keep bitching about broken government, corrupt/inept politicians, etc., etc. Reform? How can you reform a corrupt system?

    If you are willing to give people power, what kind of people will that attract? Even if they have the best of intentions, the system will devour them.

    I seriously question the morality of anybody who thinks they know what’s best for you and that’s the type of mentality that most politicians have. They sure know what’s best for them.

  11. Jackstraw August 5, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    “The reason why there are no “predominately libertarian states” is because no one’s buying it. ” Your absolutely right Alan. Why would anyone buy a boring old car when you guys are selling magic carpet rides. What they are buying and what is in existence only says something about you and them. The political system is the result of what people are “buying”. What do you think people are gonna do when they finally figure out that the carpet don’t fly. Simply ask for a refund?

    • Alan Bedenko August 5, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

      Why would anyone buy a boring old car when you guys are selling magic carpet rides.

      When one’s answer to every question is “let the market sort it out”, they’re selling a magic carpet ride.

  12. Jackstraw August 6, 2009 at 5:03 am #

    There’s nothing sexy about let the market sort it out. The market requires people to work and pay for what they consume. It’s pretty plain jane. Free health care, prosperity through printing money now were talking good times!

  13. Mike In WNY August 6, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    The market also requires people to accept responsibility for their own actions, something that is sorely lacking today.

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