Monday, June 4, 2012

How Stupid are we?

The upcoming election will be a good test of just how stupid the American People are.  Have we really drunk the Kool Aid from the “Big Money” lobbies, or do we know how to think for ourselves?  In an effort to keep the status quo, we have been fed a large number of emotional issues that have very little effect on our personal lives, but fuel the anger that hides reason.

Do we really believe that getting rid of thousands of government workers will lower unemployment?  Do we think that the President can do anything meaningful to jump start the economy?   Do we really think that we can substantially reduce the deficit by cutting discretionary spending and not raising taxes?  Do we think that politicians that pledge not to cut taxes don’t force others to raise taxes? 

We really don’t understand how insurance works when we talk about Social Security as a savings account rather than an insurance reserve.  We’ve had private accounts since 1974 (called IRA’s).  If we really believe that universal health care is a human right (50 states have passed laws providing for universal emergency room coverage) then why do we let insurance companies take 15% or more of every health care dollar?  I’d very much like to learn how we can have “for profit health care” and not raise prices, increase treatments while ignoring cures, or hope for more sick people!

Does anyone actually believe that the government could even try to take anyone’s guns away?  Why do some think that making abortion illegal will stop them from happening?  Of course all the efforts put into making teaching a less than honorable profession will make it easier to pull the wool over the eyes of a lot of future voters. 

If politicians spent more time on what they have done and were planning on doing, rather than lying about their opponents, we could see more clearly.  We have to remember that when the politicians have raised millions of dollars, those millions are all going to the media to buy TV, print & radio coverage.  Getting the big money out of politics will not be done by either the politicians or the media. 

We could get the big money out of politics by passing a constitutional amendment:"Notwithstanding the First Amendment, efforts to influence elections to public office in the United States and its; subdivisions shall be limited to those who are able to vote in said election.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm Outraged

I have tried to ignore the divide and conquer tactics of our politicians but find myself more and more outraged. I am outraged that my freedom of religion is under attack by people trying to pass laws that state when life begins. I am outraged by Christians being upset when I wish them Happy Holidays, am I to know they’re not Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist? Did I try to insult them with this? My religious freedom is challenged when I have to sit through others prayers in a public space. I am outraged that religious zealots can’t tell the difference between secular and sacred and try to deny committed couples the same rights to pursue secular happiness that heterosexual couples can freely enjoy. I am outraged that a nation founded on religious freedom should be called a Christian nation. Much of America’s foreign policy for the last decades has been trying to stop nations from adopting Sharia law because of it’s obvious problems for freedom and democracy. Why are we trying to adopt “Christian” law? I am outraged by politicians whose main motivation is holding power. I am outraged that I may not be able to vote if I shave off my beard. I am outraged that ugly personal attacks have taken the place of reasoned debate. I am outraged when American citizens patriotism is questioned because they hold beliefs that are not common. I am outraged that lobbyists are writing laws and seemingly running the country. America became great because of its diversity and acceptance of new ideas and people. It’s time to stop thinking that we know the TRUTH and begin to listen to others and use logic again.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gutting Campaign Finance

The cost of getting elected has grown so large that our representatives are stuck with spending a considerable amount of time raising campaign funds. In order to do this, they are forced to go to where the money is; Political Action Committees, and Lobbyists. When we, as citizens, desire Congress to take a particular action, we use our special interest group to represent us. The special interest group will find out which members of Congress have the power to accomplish the ends, and then start letter writing campaigns and make campaign contributions to the appropriate committee members. This process results in the most flush special interest groups getting their way.

This reliance on special interest groups (lobbys) is the reason that we will never see the change that
either parties is looking to implement. Obamacare is a great example of this. While America’s Health Insurance Plans Association sent over $83 million to the Chamber of Commerce to fight Obamacare, they were busy helping write the bill that actually became law. They’ve whipped up a frenzy of hatred in people that don’t know much about the funding of health care, while at the same time have reaped huge profits since the law was passed. The well funded fight by the banks to gut the new financial regulations, (which they again helped to write), shows what well funded representation can provide. In both these cases, the group of people who are funding the PAC’s stand to lose their livelihood or at the very least lose substantial amounts of money. The people who benefit from the proposals will stand to gain a much smaller benefit, that they very often don’t fully understand, even though their numbers are much greater than the PAC contributors. Those in the tax industry understand this when they say that tax simplification always makes taxes more complicated. Once a tax benefit has been granted a special interest is created. That special interest will fight tooth and nail to keep any benefit they have even when the reasons for the benefit are long gone. Witness the subsidies the federal government gives to the oil companies, corporate farmers, and airwave users.

Of real concern is the type of person this system is attractive to. Many we see in the political arena are clearly motivated more by the desire to lead then the desire too better the lives of those that are being led. Many of our best leaders never saw themselves in a leadership position until it was thrust upon them. These people will never be involved in our political process as long as the chief requirement of a candidate is to be able to raise sufficient funds to run a campaign.

Lobby’s can provide valuable service to the country in the form of expert testimony about their industries. When they are providing funds to candidates, their purpose has been corrupted while their incomes have sky rocketed. Our political parties also have seen this corrupting influence. They serve a useful purpose in Congress by being able to define and support bills before Congress. When the party holds the purse strings to campaigns, the local candidates are forced into supporting the national line of thinking even if contrary to what’s best locally.

Our Founding Fathers provided us with a Constitution that has each House member representing an equal number of neighboring citizens, and a Senate with equal representation from each State. The beauty of this system hinges on local representation bringing local issues to the National table that can only be acted on if the same issues occur across the Nation. This system, while nominally intact, has been corrupted beyond what I believe our Founding Fathers could ever have imagined. We are now asked frequently to provide campaign funds to elections that are far away from our location in an attempt to sway an election in a district that we know little or nothing about. With the state of transportation and media in the late 1700’s what it was, I don’t believe our Founding Fathers even considered the possibility of people campaigning for candidates that they couldn’t vote for. In many cases, I
believe, people wouldn’t even know who was running in a distant district until the winning candidate was seated in Congress. In the rural economy that we had back then, people’s needs were always more like their neighbors than people in other states. If people that lived a distance from each other shared the same concerns, you could be sure that those concerns were worth addressing at a national level. That is no longer the case.

One of the most important rights in the United States is that of Free Speech. As a country we have recognized the importance of limiting this right in special situations. You cannot yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater just like you can’t lie in order to make money, (fraud). I realize it is probably impossible to stop all politicians from lying. It is possible to lessen the impact of these lies by restricting campaign funding. Electioneering is a special form of speech, that must be limited to the people who are most affected by the election in question. With this in mind I would suggest the following as an Amendment to our Constitution:

Notwithstanding the First Amendment, efforts to influence elections to public office in the United States and its’ subdivisions shall be limited to those who are eligible to vote in said election.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The enacting legislation would provide for legitimate reporting of news, full disclosure in a timely basis of contributions, and the rights of states to pass laws limiting contributions. Penalties for violators should include the loss of the right to vote.

The difficulty of getting this passed is obvious due to the power inherent in the lobby’s and the political parties. It should be possible, however, as these are two of the groups that are most reviled in the country. It might require a Grover Norquist 'no new taxes' type of action, where we all shame our congressmen into pledging support for the Amendment.