Archive for Elections

For Sale To The Highest Bidder: Your Government

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics, Rants with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Yesterday, the way candidates are elected in the U.S. was changed as the Supreme Court struck down the part of the McCain-Feingold Act — as well as other federal laws that had been in place for decades — which limited the amount of money that could be poured into campaigns by both business corporations and other heavily-influential groups like labor unions.  The Court’s ruling was made on the grounds that limits that have been imposed by laws such as the McCain-Feingold Act are unconstitutional.

This is nothing but bad news for the political process, which is rife with corruption and self-serving politicians already.  We already have a Congress filled with the best Senators and Representatives that money can buy, and this ruling is only going to exacerbate that problem.  Everyone regardless of their political leanings should be worried about what this ruling will mean for the future, as we already have a Congress who’s leaned heavily towards favoring the same huge institutions — Wall Street, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies, for example — who have not only caused a large number of the problems we’ve seen in the past decade (the bailout fiasco, the health care problem), but who will now be able to pay whatever it takes to see that any solutions that are decided upon in the future aid them first and foremost.

What’s badly needed is a campaign system that would bar donations of all kinds for political candidates at all levels of office (right down to your local officials), whether they came from individuals, groups, or corporations — and public financing for all political campaigns that would be set a pre-determined amount.  If a candidate spends that money, then they’re just out of luck.  Before anyone hedges at the idea of their tax money going towards the election process, it might help to remember that you’re already paying for that process, in the form of bloated governments that are great at wasting the money they’re given by the American people, but completely incompetent when it comes to finding basic solutions for basic problems (an character trait that affects your local, as well as state and federal, officials).

One of the great embarrassments we in our country should feel is the fact that, with all of our great riches, we waste such a ridiculous amount of resources every year in the electoral process.  This waste takes many forms: expensive dinners for supporters, lavishly decorated halls filled with banners and balloons for rallies, limos and buses and aircraft to carry bloated staffs during campaigning, and of course, all of that advertising.  Ads upon ads, almost always negative attack ads that have little to do with the real issues at hands,  that filled the airwaves of both television and radio.

Millions of people go hungry every year -- yet we're giving hundreds of millions of dollars to politicians so that they can use their influence to line their own pockets and that of their friends. Anyone besides me see the problem here?

In the 2008 presidential election, for example, the three main contenders (Obama, McCain, and Clinton) and spent in excess of $250 million on their campaigns, and that was only by January.  And we’re not even taking into account all of the money spend on the rest of the candidates, or all of the state and local elections that take place around the country every year.  Can anyone honestly explain how the huge, obscene amounts of money being spent on campaigning for political office in this country has helped the process?  Or explain how it’s made our entire political system (or our government) better and not worse? Look around — do you feel like it’s been money well spent?

A far better use of that money than spending it on the corrupted political process would be to feed the hungry, aid the poor, or take care of the sick and disadvantaged in this country, just for starters.  Instead, we throw away money to candidates who go through it like water — and laugh all the way to the bank as they more often than not use their positions of power as an ATM for their political supporters.

If we sharply limited the amounts of money spent on the election campaign process in general, and combined that with public financing only for all elections — local, state, and federal — then we might be left with a system where candidates who give intelligent solutions to our country’s complex problems might actually get elected, instead of us watching the current system where candidates get elected because they ran the most effective attack ad, or because they got the largest donations from the biggest political action group or corporation, or because they made the most under-the-table deals take care of their supporters’ special interests once they get into office.

That kind of radical change, unfortunately, will sadly, likely never happen.  If there’s anything you could get both of our current parties to agree upon, it would be to strike down a movement like this before it could ever get itself started, as real campaign and fund-raising reform would be a definitive threat to the livelihoods and tenure of those currently in office.  And if the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday suggests anything, its that the way we elect our officials in the future — and in turn, the fates of the average citizen like you and I — is only going to get far worse and not better.