Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Seat At an Expensive Table

I generally don't pay much attention to columnist LZ Granderson, who I think is just another left-leaning blowhard different only in political orientation and degree of erudition from the odious gasbags of the right. But yesterday he published a column that spoke eloquently to what I believe is the most serious problem that affects what's left of our political processes today - the cost of the proverbial seat at the table. You can read that column here.

One reason our political system is so screwed up is that it costs so much to run for office and, once there, to keep it. Presidents, members of Congress, many judges, and public officials at every level must dedicate a large part of the time they should be doing the people's work to raising the money needed to fund their next campaign. Well-heeled donors are courted to attend parties, dinners, receptions and other campaign events costing many thousands of dollars per person. Political parties and their associated PACs and super PACs build enormous war chests of cash in the name of free expression of political beliefs, and the source of much of that money is anonymous and unrestricted, thanks to the generosity of Supreme Court decisions which equate corporations and organizations with Real People.

At a time when axes are being taken to budgets for education, tens of millions of dollars are being raised by both parties to buy elections and cement power. What will that money buy? Countless billions of tacky yard signs and flyers, torrents of annoying robo-calls, and hours upon hours of attack ads washing great floods of half-truths and outright lies over a cynical and tired electorate. The armies of earnest young campaign workers who go door-to-door, flacking for their candidates of choice without a real clue of where they stand on issues are a bonus ... as volunteers, they come for free, allowing the bottomless vats of campaign cash to be spent - frequently anonymously - on other things.

Mr Granderson notes in his article that the median annual income in the United States is about $50,000, and that a recent fund raising event for Mitt Romney required a minimum donation of  $75,000 to attend. I doubt that very many teachers, construction workers, nurses, police officers, or firefighters made it through the door to have their voices heard.

Yes, Dear Readers, we live in a political system dominated by the Golden Rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules. You and I can - and should - cast our votes, but if you haven't written a check with a lot of zeroes left of the decimal point, your voice isn't likely to be heard. As Mr Granderson writes,

"These big (campaign) spenders are not just involved in shaping dialogue. They get involved with shaping policy, which inevitably makes the good of the people secondary to the good of the deepest pockets."

Just a little something for you to ponder as you contemplate how far down the table your cheap seat is from the well-funded throne of the person who is supposed to represent you.

Good luck come November.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

It's truly sad, but your version of the golden rule holds true for politics. Because of that, we have two sets of fat cats in effect vieing for any meaningful role in government. Because of the money involved, it's almost impossible for independents to also serve.

IMO, we have two things wrong with our government: The Democratic Party and the republican Party!

allenwoodhaven said...

Corporate money, thanks to Citizens United, is the biggest new problem. As someone with more wit than I have said, "I'll believe corporations are people when one gets the death penalty."

We need public financing of elections with maximum amounts firmly enforced. A shorter election season would help too. Where to get the money? How about all those corporations and the wealthy? (Just don't let them decide how it is spent....)

Big Sky Heidi said...

We seem to be in a continuous cycle of elections, they go on forever and more money has to be spent. But, hey, we got the best Congreee money can buy!

Mike said...

Missouri had a $325 per person limit until the right wing legislature and the left wing governor cancelled it making it unlimited.

Duckbutt said...

Let's face it. With the costs of running being so high, we have wound up with a plutocracy, if not a turdocracy.

John said...

Bumper sticker wisdom:
"We don't have elections; we have auctions!"

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.