What you read here is neither partisan nor does it advocate philosophical views. It concerns our country and what must be done to help it.
Begin by understanding the words of President Calvin Coolidge. “It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.” Many citizens have come to believe that the only way to avoid this national malaise is to impose term limits on all elected politicians.
Through our history, money has played a corrupting role in politics. Over 100 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt proposed banning any corporate role in election processes, and the Tillman Act did just that in 1907. Forty years later, the Taft-Hartley Act prohibited unions and business from spending money in federal elections. Modern campaign finance rules came in 1971 with the Federal Election Campaign Act. However, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling gutted these laws (the Citizens United decision).
Political spending has risen dramatically over the past 30 years, but this spending rose 450% in 2010 to $489 million above the 2006 election cycle. Consider the fact that the Tea Party on the right and Occupy on the left were formed in large part because both movements agreed that government is no longer responsive to the people. Thoughtful citizens do agree, through whatever rationale, that neither political party represents the interests of the American people since both are controlled by foreign and domestic corporations and special-interest groups that provide a majority of their funding.
A consensus from many analysts has evolved some practical cures to improve election processes and diminish the influences of money.
• Prohibit members of Congress from soliciting or receiving contributions (bribes) from any industry or entity they regulate.
• Prohibit members and staff from offering or arranging jobs in exchange for favors, contributions or access to influence legislation. Make this effective during all elective terms and for five years after term completion.
• Limit all political-action committee (PAC) contributions, including the Super PACs, to the same standards.
• Limit contributions from lobbyists and their clients to any campaign, party or committee to a small amount of $500 or less.
• Disclose all “bundling” and “bundler” activities under felony penalty.
• Disclose all political expenditures for advocacy, advertising or partisan endorsement, such as through “501c” entities, and do so under felony penalty for failures.
• Create a citizen taxpayer “available option” of $100 or $250 as a qualified tax deduction, thereby flooding elections with small donors to offset large donor impacts.
• Require the Federal Election Commission to enforce existing law or suffer penalty.
Misbegotten monies and human failings shown by politicians are just the most visible part of the current problem. Our nation has a bigger issue than most people realize simply because government itself is far too large, cumbersome and does not operate with what the citizenry understands as common sense. Chris Edwards wrote about this on The Daily Caller last January, where he addressed some of the following points.
• Government is too large. It has 2,200 subsidy and benefit programs rife with waste, fraud and abuse. Government employees are not spending their own money and therefore have a stilted view of value and success. In the private sector, decisions are made by weighing costs and benefits of spending private, not tax, money.
• Federal agencies are not subject to takeover, bankruptcy or (get real about this) employment. In the private sector, where approximately 10% of businesses fail each year, poor performance is punished. Disciplining federal employees is difficult. In real terms, there are few penalties for failure to perform compared to the private sector. Federal worker pay is mostly tied to longevity, not performance.
• Without a realistic penalty-reward system for federal agencies and employees, there is little incentive to innovate.
• Congress imposes added costs to federal agencies and resists cost cutting. Closing a low-value facility or project that affects the public or causes visibility is rare.
• To policymakers, costs are benefits. Studies show that cost overruns are far more prevalent on government projects than on private-sector jobs.
• Government regulations and paperwork impose added and unnecessary job costs. Jobs performed by government have no clear goals, such as efficiency or profitability.
We will examine the true nature of our political scene and the participants behind it in this space next month. IH