To begin, this Chewin’ (article) is about political reform. Therefore, if you are happy with how the U.S. political system currently works, then you probably won’t like it. On the other paw, if you are fed up with how money seems to bring power, and how we (the People) never seem able to get our voices heard, then please read on! Herein, I have some ideas to bring meaningful change for all Americans–meaning all parties and social leanings–so we can once again have our representatives represent us.
Okay, before we begin, I want to make one thing clear: in terms of U.S. politics, I am a staunch, middle-of-the-road Moderate. Therefore, I don’t want to hear anyone shouting, “FloxMonster™ is an evil Liberal!” or “What a Conservative nut!” I may be a nut, but I am damn-sure not Conservative, thank you very much. (I support gay rights, and I own guns, honey.)
That said, let’s get into it!
Our political system is broken. We need sane, thoughtful political reform. We currently have representation, but not fair representation. In the United States, we are supposed to have a Representative Democracy–that is, we vote to elect people who represent us fairly on matters which govern us.
We actually have a Representative Plutocracy–that is, we vote for people who represent us, but they truly just follow the money. It is rule by the Almighty Dollar.
Here’s what happens…
We vote for Presidents and Congressmen (and local reps down to the city dogcatcher) who need money for their campaigns. It is expensive to get elected! So they take donations from citizens, corporations, PACs (“Political Action Committees”), and other organizations. The government also gives them campaign funds, in some cases, if they meet certain criteria.
The rules are, everyone gives donations and expects nothing in return.
… Yeah right!
How Politics Really Works
The truth is, after somebody wins the election, many corporations and organizations move in. They call up their successful candidate and go, “okay, buddy, now that you’re elected, I need this!” (and/or, “if you want to be RE-elected, I need this!“). Yes, it is unofficial and under-the-table but it happens every day.
In D.C. they refer to those folks (or the requests they make) as “Special Interests.” And our elected official–who is supposed to represent us, right?–does what those Special Interests want. After all, they gave him/her money, and s/he wants more. It’s all, “Screw the regular guys, who’s got the money?”
Now, I will pause here to say that there are a few representatives who do try to represent the populace, who do try to stay honest and avoid the pitfalls of big corporation donations and special interests. Good for them. If Washington were full of those people, I would not be writing this article.
Additionally, another problem complicates the issue. This is a group of people called “Lobbyists.” These are professionals hired by parties who want certain laws passed. Lobbyists spend all day trying to convince our representatives to create or vote for laws which support that lobbyist’s particular cause. Some lobbyists hold decent causes–for example, environmental groups often hire lobbyists to push laws protecting wildlife preserves. A huge percentage, however, represent corporations and private groups who want to protect or bring more money to their industries.
Lobbyists take our representatives out to lunch, bring them to parties, promise them campaign funds, and do all sorts of things to make sure their causes get political support. Therefore, our representatives give them an audience because they have more money and influence than we (the People) ever could have.
So, how much influence can a letter-writing campaign have, compared to a weekend in Vegas? Well… why not find out!
Let’s Do Something -> Political Reform
Because there are so many Special Interests in Washington, we must do something to curtail their power. They have the money, and we (the People) do not. So what can we do? We must ask the politicians to set limits on themselves!
Hmm, tough call. Well, so long as we’re asking, here’s what I think we should ask for…
1. Term Limits
First, I respect that an experienced politician knows his/her way around Washington, and that’s great. However, we don’t need Senators and Representatives serving lifetimes in D.C.. That just contributes to the whole “pay for my re-election and I’ll do what you want” scenario. So we need Term Limits: 4 terms of service, maximum. No more career politicians.
2. Donation Limits
Second, donations should be strictly limited to $1,000 maximum per each individual with a Social Security Number. Yes, that means private U.S. Citizens only. No foreign interests, corporations, partnerships, churches, organizations… no Special Interests.
3. Public Campaign Funds
Third, while we’re cutting back on private donations, let’s raise the government funding, to make for a more even playing field. Candidates with more than 10,000 legitimate signatures should be eligible to receive an equal share of government funds toward their campaign. This cuts back on only super-popular candidates being able to run. Let’s see more third-party and minority candidates out there!
4. Profit Lobbyist Ban
Lastly, lobbyists should only be allowed to speak to our political representatives if they support Nonprofit or Welfare Causes. They cannot speak for any corporation or other money-making organization. For example, lobbyists can stand for causes like feeding the poor, helping the environment… you know, ideas that our representatives should actually dedicate time toward. By contrast, giving so much time to for-profit causes makes our system inherently corrupt. It feeds back into that whole “re-elect me and I’ll pass laws for you” nonsense which got us into this mess in the first place. No!
Okay, then. That’ll do, for a start. If I think of anything else… I’ll let you know.