Thursday, March 26, 2009

A time to fix our economy or a time to fix our government?

One of the reasons I started this blog is because of my growing concern over the American government's inability to govern effectively. It is my opinion that three things stand in the way of better government: career politicians, uncontrolled campaign contributions, and the XVII Amendment to the United States Constitution (direct election of Senators).

career politicians are concerned about one thing, their careers. The stress of being re-elected and the money needed to run a campaign divert the attention of most legislators from their job, i.e. representing the people. Dodd's run in with AIG and Steven's problems are good examples of this.

Campaign contributions are a major problem and one that will not go away until Americans demand it. I am against political contributions from companies and I think we should look at the the issue of contributions being capped in total rather than per person. Contributions to Obama's campaign being given en masse under false names to avoid the donation limit is a great example. I'm sure this happened for McCain as well. I also believe that we need serious lobbying reform. Jack Abramoff was just the tip of the iceberg.

Gerald Cassidy, the founder of the lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates used the process of lobbying to secure earmarks for clients paying big dollars. The process of earmarking is using tax payer dollars for a specific use or program. Perhaps now you see the link between earmarks and campaign contributions. In DC circles Gerald Cassity is a big deal and has become fabulously wealthy moving tax payer dollars to earmarks for the well heeled. In an interview that Cassidy gave to the Washington Post in a series piece they did on him, he said this about lobbying and earmarks:

So the rich have gotten richer, the weak weaker? "I refuse to argue the obvious. ... It's just true, largely because they have less representation. You look at the movements out there, there is no anti-hunger movement, there is no committee on the Hill looking into poverty."

That comment infuriates me every time. Not because of how Mr. Cassidy is right, but because of how Congress has gone to the trough on earmarks and left the rest of us in the cold. Is AIG to blame for recent flap over bonuses? Or is it the legislative provision in the stimulus that allowed AIG to pay the bonuses? Keep in mind that provision replaced existing language in the bill that barred AIG from pay bonuses. I find Mr. Cassidy and the industry that he spawned repellent and a direct threat to heart of our democratic system --- REAL CHANGE IS REQUIRED!

I am not going to address the XVII amendment in this post. I am going to address that issue in a separate posting because I'd like to dedicate more time to that issue. Suffice it to say, that the direct election of Senators should be reviewed and the original method of appointing Senators restored.

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