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Fixing Government - 5 Cents
Posted by: Paul Nichols

30 Aug 2010


What's the biggest issue in politics? Political correctness? Crooked politicians? Illegal immigrants? Budget deficits? "Finger pointing Federalism" (coined by me just right now, but likely used in similar contexts by sources I have not learned of or researched) where governments blame each other for their own inability to pay for services?

 

It changes depending on who you're talking to. I actually think budget deficits are the biggest issue in politics/government. Budget deficits mean that the government has to borrow money, or print more money, to cover its costs. This forces future generations to cover the costs of today's generation. It's pretty selfish. For all the talk about how useless Generation Y is, the Baby Boomers in power seem to be doing a fantastic job of taking a baseball bat to Generation Y's fiscal knees.

 

What's the biggest issue in politics? Budget deficits.

 

What's the most important one? Campaign Finance Reform.

 

Period.

 

How do we expect politicians to not be crooked (however dramatically you want to define this word) when their very livelihood depends on raising money for the next campaign?

 

Should we be surprised when they fund pork projects that benefit companies that financed them?

 

Should we be surprised that politicians trade votes to help fund even more absurd projects? (Take a look at the classic book, Tribes on the Hill.)

 

I know there's a cost to publically funded campaigns, and I'd love to hear suggestions about how such a system would work, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

 

First, publically funded campaigns open politics to folks who aren't independently wealthy. Imagine someone being able to run for office based on the strength of their beliefs instead of the strength of their wallets or the volume of her/his voice.

 

Second, they would help free politicians from owing political favors. Perhaps they could actually vote on the merits of a project rather than whether it ensures additional campaign contributions. I'm not saying politicians should never try to pass a bill that would benefit their own constituency; I am saying that I'd hope publically funded campaigns would reduce vote trading and pork projects.

 

Tell me - what are the other benefits of publically funded campaigns? Any ideas on how it could work? Should it just be at the Federal level of government, or State level too? Is local government open enough to everyone that it's not needed there?

 

What are the drawbacks of publically funded campaigns, other than up-front costs?

 

I think a lot of the problems in government today are symptoms of an election system that makes it difficult for average folks to run for office, and results in wasteful spending. I believe publically funded campaigns force candidates to debate important issues over the long-term, like the lack of budget flexibility due to Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security, rather than focus on short-term hot-button issues that make a good media story but don't have much substance (I could have chosen several stories that have been unduly dominating the news, but I refuse to acknowledge that they're news by writing them here).

 

So, what say ye? Let's fix this government we're a part of rather than putting band-aids on the symptoms of these problems! We've got to fix it!

© 2010 Dime Brothers
Category: Politics    

Reader Comments:

Comments
 
When you say governments blame each other, do you mean administrations?

I'm not sure I see the difference between "big" and "important". Maybe long term and short term? Although I see the budget issues as the biggest and most important, long and short term.

Many who run for national office have the financial means to fund their own campaigns. I believe the populace views their business success as synonymous with independent thought - they don't need to be bought because they're rich already. But regardless of perception, the rich still end up being "political" (funding pork projects, trading votes, etc.). And although you might give an underdog thousands of dollars, you probably can't limit the amount of personal money spent by a rich candidate in a campaign. So the playing field won't be leveled in many cases.

The poorer who run for federal or state office would benefit from campaign help, though, to be able to get their message out a little better. And perhaps financial help would persuade more people to run for office. But to limit the number running who are just looking to pocket some moolah, you'd have to require signatures and a certain level of own fund raising first.

It might work at a federal level, could work at a state level (although many state positions don't pay enough to live off of, so you're already limiting who is going to run anyway - has to be someone who is retired or works variable hours), but should probably only be needed at a local level when the population is large (greater than 100,000?).

But this campaign finance reform, as you say, wouldn't stop pork funding, but perhaps reduce it. That's a lot of reform to institute for unsure results.

If the goal is to get people with better ideas into office, I'm not sure campaign finance reform will be the motivating factor for those people. If the goal is to reduce pork, there's probably a better, more simple idea out there somewhere.

For more fun, here's an article on political sleaziness: Candidate sleaze tactics in Arizona - from the NY Times
07 Sep 2010
Mark 
Another Link
 
Here's a link to a featured article on Yahoo about campaign spending records being set this year.
07 Sep 2010
Mark 
Federalism
 
Federalism, and, therefore, "governments" refer to the divisions of government into federal, state, and local segments.

The blame game goes something like this: A local government can't pay for their schools cause the state won't ante up. A state can't pay for their roads cause the federal government won't ante up. Everyone's running a deficit, but not really cause they're bailed out by the level of government above them. The federal government has no one to ask for money, so they're the only one actually showing a deficit.

I understand that, for example, state funding of schools helps increase equity for towns and areas that are more economically depressed than another. But it also decreases accountability. So everyone's left pointing the finger (and handing the bill) to someone else for something they want (e.g., education, roads, etc.).

Campaign finance reform isn't just about reducing pork. It makes elections more democratic because someone wouldn't have to run based just on how much money they could make or how marketable they were. An independent could, in my imaginary system, qualify for state/federal funding for their campaign if they received so many signatures. Parties could still nominate whoever they wanted.

Candidates could then focus their campaigns (prior to the election) not on wooing investors, but wooing voters. Then, once elected, the candidate could theoretically make a decision based on the good of the voters and not be influenced by whether or not he would be funded in the next election by a corporation/individual.

So perhaps the result of publicly-funded campaigns would be an increase in private advertisements slamming candidates during election seasons, created solely by corporations or organizations opposed to a candidate.

Would D.C. lobbying increase or decrease? I'm not sure. It would reduce the likelihood of impropriety by elected officials.
08 Sep 2010
Paul 
Onion Article on Graft
 
09 Sep 2010
Paul 
Quote
 
Here's a quote from Teddy Roosevelt on the topic:

"It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced."

Source of the complete "New Nationalism Speech"
01 Dec 2011
Mark 
Link
 
An article on presidential candidates usually not signing up for public funding because it keeps them from raising more private money after the fact.
01 Dec 2011
Mark 
Citizens United
 
President Obama answered a question about campaign contribution reform on Reddit last night. Here's the question and answer:

"What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?"

Obama's reply:
Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congressto at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.
30 Aug 2012
Mark 
Got a spare nickle?
 
Fundraising Live-Tweeted
http://storify.com/ezraklein/fundraising-livetweeted
25 Jun 2013
Paul 

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