Much is wrong with American Politics, as we have already seen in this series. The circumstances about to be described can be argued as something good or bad, but it seems that anyone can see the potential for bad.
We are now in the final month before the election and things have begun to get rather exciting in most political camps as they begin to receive the huge donations from PACs (Political Action Committees). An election is incredibly expensive, as we have already discussed. When I went to D.C. to talk to the RNCC (Republican National Congressional Committee), I was told that I would need about two million dollars to run a campaign for my district. I was told that I was lucky because some races can cost upwards to twenty million dollars. When we stop to realize that this is for a job that pays about $163,000 per year, it seems mind boggling that so much money would be put forward to win an election. While it is only a recent development that millions can be raised overnight from individuals, it is still the big corporations, lobbies and labor unions that provide massive amounts of money.
Interestingly, as the companies start to “dish out” the rewards, they analyze other factors. If the polls are indicating that another candidate may win the election, they may, and probably will elect to donate to that campaign also. Therefore, the same large corporations and lobbies may be donating to two candidates running against one another in a close race. The money may come in before the election and sometimes after the election, but it will come. Why would a large corporation donate to both candidates? Aren’t they committed to one person who will do the best job? Not really. They are hedging their bets to make certain that whoever gets into office knows that they donated money and will do so again to get them re-elected down the road. So, once again, that candidate has an obligation to that corporation or lobby. Is this illegal? Absolutely not. In fact, it is something protected constitutionally. People freely give their money to the Political Action Committees who spend it to make certain that the candidate will respond favorably to their positions. It is really no different than an individual giving to a certain candidate because they believe in that candidate. However, it is easy to see that grave consequences can derive from this practice.
Many people complain about the actions of lobbyists. However, it is important to remember that you have the right to petition Congress regarding issues that are important to you. The problem is that you do not have the time to go to Washington every week nor the expertise or even the access to influence a Congressman in a particular direction. Therefore, you give your money to groups who hire lobbyists to keep the Congressmen properly informed on the issues that are important to you. If you give to NRA, Right- to-Life, AARP or any lobby, you are hoping that they will provide information and pressure to get your positions heard and to influence the Congressman. While that is proper, efficient and constitutionally protected as well, it is easy to see that there can be pitfalls to this system.
There is also the system formerly known as Pork Barreling, but more recently known as Earmarks. Many elected officials Many People do not like the use of this system anymore. And many politicians promise to get rid of the practice altogether, knowing full well that this will never happen. The way this works is that a Congressman does whatever they can to get extra government money to spend for something (anything) in their district. The more money, they can get for their state, the better job they feel they have done – and there are plenty of people in the district who also hold that opinion. When I ran for Congress the first time, there were those who liked me because I lived in the district. Their feeling was that federal money would go somewhere outside the district if we did not elect someone from the district. The problem with Earmarks (as a close friend of mine always says) is that if the money is for a project in my state, it sounds like a good idea, but if it is a project for your state, I don’t think it sounds too good. How much of a problem can this be?
The St. Louis Arch was not built until 1966, but the effort to get the funding for it started much earlier. In fact, a powerful political leader in Missouri stopped by Franklin Roosevelt’s Office and told him he could forget about Missouri in the next election. Roosevelt, of course, wanted to know what this was all about. He was advised that people working for Roosevelt were nor being cooperative in providing funding for the St. Louis Arch project. Funding became available almost immediately. Of course, most recently, we have seen that the promise of money for a state can sway the vote of a Congressman to vote for something like National Health Care.
Given the amount of money floating around and all the people eager to push it off to the Congressmen, is there any wonder that it is difficult to get the real business of Congress completed? Only a strong person with moral values and total commitment to the country who can resist the money will be able to stand for what is right. We must send people to Washington who are not going there for the money.
Finally, it does not matter that we send good men and women to Congress if we make no changes to the bureaucrats that have been in Washington forever. Most people want term limits for Congressmen, thinking that this will make a difference, but part of the real problem in our system is that Washington is the people who work for the Congressmen some of whom have worked for Congressmen for up to 30 years. These bureaucrats have been there through many Congressmen and administrations and have agendas known only to themselves. They write the bills, word the legislation and control much of what is happening in Washington. These are the people that need to be rotated out.
We have only scratched the surface regarding the problems our government system faces. We could easily talk about the illegal aspects of the elections, the other corruptions that occur in and out of office and on and on, but the question is still, can America survive all of these problems? I believe that we have a great future ahead of us, but we must begin to clean up our act soon.
The issues noted in this blog have existed for a very long time. Now is the time that we should look at the Republic, as did our Founding Fathers, if we hope to survive.
Perhaps we need to remember these words by Franklin: In 1787 at a Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was waiting to sign a document that would hold the fate and destiny of our nation. As he stood, his eyes fell upon a carving on the back of George Washington's chair, a carving of half a sun. He stared thoughtfully at it for a minute, then proclaimed words that would be remembered forever, "I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun." Let us pray that it continues to be a rising sun.
John Wayne Tucker
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