The corporate world now owns the federal government. Billions from its coffers fund the campaigns of legislators who therefore allow its lobbyists, of which there are now some 65 per legislator, to write the legislation itself. Congress then votes on that legislation without having actually read it. Anyone finding this acceptable does not deserve to live in a democracy much less be a legislator in one. It really is that simple.
Today, the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Population Clock” has the U.S. at 298,192,000 citizens. Say that each year, an amount is set aside from the federal budget for each citizen, in an amount equal to two large cups of cappuccino, for the expressed purpose of funding federal election campaigns. Here in Madison, WI Starbucks charges $3.69 for a large cappuccino, $7.38 for two. That would amount to $2.2 billion at year’s end.
With elections held every second year, such public financing -- for Senate, House and White House campaigns -- would make available $4.4 billion -- well over the $3.9 billion reportedly spent in 2004 on presidential and congressional elections and more than enough “to get the message out.”
Of course, not every election year involves the White House or every Senate seat, but the rough approximation sheds light on what a surprisingly simple plan could accomplish. For each campaign there would be an average of well over $4 million per candidate, assuming the Two Party System continues (another problem entirely), so that there are two candidates per race, each having been chosen from within their parties.
And how to “get the message out”? Remember the “Public” in Public Radio and Television?
Corporate America’s most crucial investments, which guarantee astronomical returns at public expense, are those allowing it to craft the law for its benefit. Those investments are in the form of campaign contributions and the many gifts to legislators in the form of lavish vacations, use of corporate facilities, and the like.
Legislators who wax well in such a rotten system have demonstrated a total lack of desire to discuss public financing of campaigns.
A common argument against public financing is that corporate billions are “free speech”. This idiocy is largely a result of legal maneuvering, going all the way back to 1886, that has won for corporations the status of “persons” in U.S. courts.
The other standard argument is that “citizens are taxed too heavily already,” a silly claim given what we lose as a result of corporate parasitism. If political campaigns were no longer year-long circuses requiring campaigners to sell their souls, there would emerge a new kind of legislator placed by “The People” rather than by the vast fortunes of insurance, pharmaceuticals, oil, defense, mining, timber, and the like. With the kind of legislation that would result, savings by We The People would be so immense as to be hard to imagine.
No rational person or group would create the corrupt system we now have, and there is no excuse for its being maintained. Campaign finance “reforms” fail because they are complex and riddled with loopholes that are quickly found and exploited. The one and only answer is now, as it always has been, 100% public financing. Financing by We The People.
Bill Willers is emeritus professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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