It isn’t often that I agree with anything published by the Center for American Progress, but their Nov. 30, 2017, paper citing inequities in campaign contributions to members of Congress was spot-on. Such “bribery” distorts policymaking and makes government less responsive and accountable to U.S. citizens.
Half a dozen years ago, lobbyists’ annual giving to members totaled $29 billion (latest data I found) and, in round numbers, was distributed:
- Finance/insurance/real estate – $4.3 billion, or 15% of the total
- Health – $4.2 billion, or 15%
- Communications – $3.5 billion, or 12%
- Energy and natural resources – $3.1 billion, or 11%
- Transportation – $2.2 billion, or 8%
- Agribusiness – $1.3 billion, or 4%
- Defense – $1.2 billion, or 4%
There were 12,281 “registered lobbyists” in 2014, with the actual number exceeding 100,000. You see, there is a lot of paperwork and disclosure to be registered with government. (I know because I was an unregistered lobbyist on the Hill representing the sole U.S. maker of nuclear warheads for the second half of the Cold War. In that time, my client and I gave a $200 campaign contribution to a senator from Mississippi … and nothing else to anyone!)
The nation has too many federal employees (about 3 million non-military that are not susceptible to removal and are, in actuality, immune to firing) and associated self-interest groups, including unions and other economic “dependencies” requiring protection. This latter category includes the media, which has evolved as a government “sales organ.”
Yet another millstone citizens must carry is the 98% re-election rate of Congressional members that perpetrate the inefficiencies and corruption in governance. For example, it is still a fact that nearly 75% of all government spending is officially described as “uncontrollable” or “mandatory,” a falsehood told by aforementioned parties with vested interests. Know that cost-of-living allowances (COLAs) increases spending automatically so as to avoid scrutiny in budget processes where removals are termed “cuts.”
One unknown abuse of power the public does not understand is the “Independent Counsel,” technically named by a three-judge panel upon request of the Attorney General, which is free to spend taxes and paid labor without accountability. It was established as a means for the Legislative Branch to “examine” the Executive Branch, an invitation to abuse of power.
As President Madison warned, such unchecked power violates the Constitution and “preservation of liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct.” Elected politicians do not do their jobs to rectify this ever-growing slate of problems, and that is largely because Washington, D.C. is “an island surrounded on all sides by reality,” as described by President Reagan.
Furthermore, Congress must end its practice of lumping all appropriations together in a single bill, a technique used to force “objectionable” items into tax-funded law. The practice does require Constitutional change to remove this corruption. The line-item veto to remedy this political habit could excise much pork-barrel spending as would requiring an annual balanced budget.
One matter needing Constitutional change is term limits on all elected members of the legislative branch. Another needed change in each government branch is a regular review and retirement of executive functions not needed for proper operations. Yet another item, only known tangentially to the public today, is the need to immediately expose and remove all instances of high-level appointees in any of the three branches leaking any information (as is done with impunity by employees for political gains and internal power struggles). All matters mentioned here are practices by federal personnel and agencies, and they are strong contributors to the dissipation of public confidence in government.
As is my usual practice, I recommend that readers contact their elected representatives and urge action to correct the “whatever” that is at the focus of these issues. It has been my growing worry that most of these matters go unattended. This is what I call “the ultimate American problem” because a growing portion of the population is uninformed, ill-informed or stupid. Time is growing short for action. America is in crisis.