Saturday, October 11, 2014

Campaign Financing

With the 2014 elections looming ominously in the near distance—November 4, in case you’ve been hibernating—the subject of campaign financing is front and center once again.

I’m not sure it is as big a problem as those on the left and right would have us believe. There are rich people on both sides of the political spectrum handing our huge piles of Benjamins. There is a pretty good chance that, in the nationwide aggregate, it pretty much evens out.

Anonymity, an idea that pops up from time to time, has been exhumed and examined once again. What if we made all campaign contributions and independent expenditures anonymous — and made sure they stayed anonymous?

First of all, I don’t think it is possible. People will find some way to make sure the object(s) of their largess are aware of who they owe. Second, as I foreshadowed above, I don’t think money is the real problem. Besides, money is speech and speech should remain as free as the Constitution made it.
Money means so much because our election seasons are so long. They essentially stretch from one election to the next. There is no time out.  

So, limit campaign lengths--no campaigning of any kind, stealth or otherwise, until three weeks before a primary or election day. Levy stiff fines for sneaking in campaign actions.

Then you need to turn off your TV and disable your telephone for a mere three weeks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why I insist upon being in the political middle

Ever wonder how we got into this mess? Here’s why.
First and above all, there are too many people in our land space. Too few resources, too little money, too little space. The more people in a given space, the larger will be the numbers in each of the many kinds of people, good and bad.
And almost every one of them has a gun.
With less opportunity comes more poverty. Poverty has become an industry in our country. A large percentage of the people living here either receives support or gives it. Either way, these folks rely upon the system continuing if not increasing.
And the system isn’t going to change no matter how much the likes of Paul Ryan create scenarios reducing welfare. The truth is that there are just too many guns in this country. Even if we never manufactured another weapon, and somehow stopped them all from coming in from outside, it would take years, probably hundreds of them, to wash the weapons out of the basements and family rooms of this country.
Those guns are the reason why politicians, either rich or working on it, never stop welfare. Think about it. Republicans have been in the White House, and have even run all three branches of government. The number and scope of welfare programs not only didn’t recede into memory, but also grew apace with the growth many of us associate with Democrats.
The reason is that very smart people comprise the American oligarchy. They do not want large numbers of desperate people, with access to a remarkable arsenal of weapons of every description capable of landing enormous firepower onto relatively unprotected places like the White House or GM Headquarters or the family compound.
The oligarchs do what they can. For instance, they converted our all-volunteer military to a professional force upon whose break the rich and powerful are the butterers.
But, just in case, increasingly they hire their own bodyguards and strengthen the defenses of their homes and neighborhoods.
Liberals and their shills in the media love to harp on the seeming cruelty of Republicans. All Republicans are not sadistic rich people any more than all Democrats are impractical leftists. The single most common element amongst more people, no matter what label we use, is that they are all humans trying to get through the day harming the least number of people possible.
Of course, the rich and powerful get first dibs on their time and interest. This is true of the people in both parties regardless of the stances they take in the great con game called politics. On the extremes we have a Paul Ryan trying to convince us that most people on welfare are malingerers made that way by an overly paternalistic system. On the other side we have a Nancy Pelosi trying to convince us that every law taking from the rich (well, not her and her husband, of course) and giving to the poor, is a good one even if she hasn’t read it yet.
The truth is that place that makes the most sense to be in, approximately the middle of the political spectrum. The middle is now so tiny that few can fit into it. The truth is that we really do need people to get rich, or at least think they can, because they usually create wealth like jobs and leisure time while doing it (hedge fund managers are a stinking exception). We really do need governments taking the rough edges off over-enthusiastic capitalists, providing assistance to those otherwise left behind either by lack of ability or lack of opportunity. We need a defense establishment (but don’t really need to be all over the world attracting murderous attention and giving unwanted interference). We need a foreign policy (although we haven’t had one in years), but we don’t need to give away dollars we don’t have to oligarchs in foreign lands.
We don’t need Depts of Labor, Education and Energy, and we must get rid of the Homeland Security Agency before it turns into a Gestapo (Secret State Police). (Feel free to make your own list.)
The rise of cable TV and the Internet have decoupled Americans. We no longer share the same experiences locally or nationally. And we apparently like it that way. Witness the inability of Americans to get their arms around attempts to give all children access to the same information; e.g., No Child Left Behind; Common Core. Being humans, we gravitate to sources that make us feel right, proper, and virtuous. We no longer have to suffer the bleating of fools (defined as anyone who disagrees with us).
There may not always be another side of the story, but even if there is, few hear it.
The truth is that we are in disarray, and no single political faction or ideology is the catalyst. To the extent that politicians are a/the source of the problem, all of them are right and all of them are wrong. The folks who could control politics, the voters, are getting exactly what they deserve. The Federal Government, unfortunately, is a mirror image of our society.