Arianna Huffington on Government Reform
2004 former Independent Challenger for CA Governor
With 535 members of the Senate and the House, that means lobbyists in the halls of power outnumber our elected representatives almost 26 to 1. If we divide $3.5 billion evenly among the 535, it means each member of the legislative branch was at the receiving and of $6.5 million worth of special interest arm-twisting over the course of the year.
And that's just the money corporate America is spending on lobbying. Millions more are given directly to politicians and the political parties. From 1974 to 2008 the average amount it took to run for reelection to the House went from $56,000 to more than $1.3 million.
This has to start with a complete reboot of the way we finance our elections. The most effective means of restoring the integrity of our government is through the full public financing of political campaigns. It's the mother of all reforms--the one reform that makes all other reforms possible. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune. If someone's going to own the politicians, it might as well be the American people. Think of it: No hard money, no PAC money, no endless dialing for dollars. No more lobbyists sitting in House and Senate offices literally writing tailor-made loopholes into laws. Just candidates and elected officials beholden to no one but voters.
Access & influence-the two things that big donors admit they are seeking when they “max out” on their contributions to politicians-are just apt euphemisms for power.
The Bushies, though, are determined to take another whack at the New Deal and the institutions that emerged in its wake. Bush Republicans are determined to privatize as much of the social welfare infrastructure as possible. And where they can’t eliminate or privatize a program, they will simply starve it for capital in the years ahead. Thus, the tax cuts of today are sticks of dynamite being planted around the foundation of Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.
Our political world is divided into two camps: those who consider plummeting turnout and high disengagement a serious threat to our democracy, and those who do not. The problem is that almost every elected official and political consultant is in the latter camp. Which isn’t so surprising when you consider how many of them owe their jobs to the worst aspects of the system.
The defenders of the status quo have no problem with disaffected citizens dropping out-it keeps them from making waves. Better that they get out than care enough to stay in and vote against them. In many ways, it is easier to play to, control, and manipulate a smaller audience.
Here’s a better idea: Let’s fight back against the pollsters. Contact your congressman and demand that he or she work to get telephone polling added to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. This would not only offer consumers one more tool to protect their privacy, it would also give citizens a valuable weapon to protect democracy from its ongoing hostile takeover by pollsters. Given the collective nature of politics, people always ask, What can one person do? Well, you can start by removing yourself from the polling pool.
It’s a simple idea-and a radical one. But, as Professor Ayres reminded me, the radical idea on which it’s modeled-the secret ballot-is only about a century old, though we take it for granted today. The secret ballot put a halt to voter buying [at a time] when party bosses [bought votes]. “The voting booth,” Ayres says, “made it harder for candidates to buy votes. The ‘donor booth’ would make it harder for candidates to sell influence.”
Would it really work? In some states, it already has - Louisiana, Tennessee, Washington, and South Dakota have experimented with keeping donors to judicial campaigns anonymous.
Like any reform, this would create its own set of problems. But at this stage, even cynics are ready to exchange a new set of problems for the old ones. With the donor booth, PAC money would dry up-because knowing who’s giving is exactly why PACs exist. Donor anonymity would prove-as if more proof were needed-just how many contributions have nothing to do with the donor’s policy desires. And while the protectors of the status quo keep trying to use constitutional arguments to protect soft money, this proposal is as constitutionally unassailable as the secret ballot. Donor anonymity calls everyone’s bluff [because] donors can never prove [their donations].
Reformers are also proposing “early voting,” which extends the election period from a single day to up to three weeks; “weekend voting,” which, like early voting, keeps the polls open longer, and on days that are more convenient; and “vote by mail,” an institutionalized form of absentee voting in which the entire election is held by mail.
Of course, once it’s easier to vote, the problem becomes finding someone worth voting for. That’s where questions of ballot access and debate access come into play. Byzantine ballot regulations make it next to impossible for those outside the political mainstream to take on the system. [And] the other way the two parties try to perpetuate their duopoly is by limiting access to debates.
|Other pundits on Government Reform:||Arianna Huffington on other issues:|
Opinion Leaders on the Right:
Milton Friedman (Nobel Economist)
Rush Limbaugh (Radio Talk Show Host)
Ayn Rand (Author and Philosopher)
Heritage Foundation (Think Tank)
Opinion Leaders on the Left:
American Civil Liberties Union
Noam Chomsky (Author and Philosopher)
Arianna Huffington (Internet Columnist)
Robert Reich (Professor and Columnist)
Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks)
John F. Kennedy(President,1961-1963)