Our complex problem is really pretty basic…

            

By Jack E. Lohman

First and foremost, ours is a corrupt political system that is fueled by campaign contributions. Get the private money out of the political system and much of our problems will clean themselves up.

Conservatives argue against this; they like to give where the giving is good. But they are short-sighted, and even labor has helped fuel the problem.

Campaign cash buys government favors, like the deregulation that led to the mortgage crisis and huge taxpayer-funded subsidies. It began long ago, even before George Bush, and it is perpetuated by both political parties at all levels of government.

Follow the dominoes: To satisfy his cronies Bush gave a tax cut to the wealthy, which converted our $300 billion deficit to a $600 billion deficit, which trashed the value of the dollar bill, thus devaluing houses and increasing the cost of oil, which now impacts every industry in the U.S. to the point that an even greater number of jobs have been sent to low-cost countries.

That is just one of many quid pro quos. It gets much worse and even more complicated.

To get out of this mess we need:

  1. Public funding of campaigns, and at $10 per taxpayer per year (at the federal level) it would be a terrific bargain. We need politicians working for us and not them. If politicians are to be beholden to their funders, those funders must be the taxpayers. CEOs don’t give campaign cash unless it is paid back in taxpayer dollars, and that is killing our nation’s economy and driving the middle and poor classes even further into the hole. (The wealthy are doing quite well, in case you haven’t heard, so they’ll fight against cleaning up the system.)
                
  2. Single-payer health care, like a Medicare-for-all system that the total population pays for and the burden is removed from corporations. Then companies can better compete with foreign product that does not have healthcare costs built into them. But the insurance industry fights this with heavy campaign cash. They consume 31% of healthcare costs without ever laying hands on a patient, so they like it just as it is.
                    
  3. Zero taxes on corporations that (a) pay their CEOs below 100 times their lowest paid worker and (b) do not outsource their manufacturing to other countries and instead keep their jobs in the US. Corporate taxes are passed to the consumer anyway, so we should use “strategic taxing” to our benefit. Corporations won’t like this so don’t count on it soon.
                    
  4. We must add tariffs to products that are imported, which increases government revenues and reduces the glamor of cheap foreign products and encourages domestic jobs. But corporations don’t like tinkering with their bottom line, and they own the politicians. Wal-mart won’t like it, because this would repay the taxpayers for their gigantic subsidies that allows them to sell so cheap.
              
  5. Politicians must implement a taxpayer-owned Oil-USA system which will add much-needed competition to the OPEC countries. We cannot remain in their grasp. We must also build more nuclear power plants, drill in the deep gulf to head off problems years from now, develop electric cars, fuel cell, clean coal, and harness wind, solar and wave power. Companies like GM killed the electric car and killed better fuel efficiency standards and are now close to bankruptcy. Some would say they deserve it.

To save the country, our politicians must take back from the wealthy some of that which they gave them. The people without money cannot fix this problem, only the wealthy can. Tax increases are necessary, as is the repeal of the Bush tax cuts. The time to reverse them is now.

Will our politicians fix the system?  Certainly not the current regime. We need new leaders and we need them now, both at the state and federal level. Preferably we’ll elect independents or a third party, but the Dems may be our only hope. At least until 2010, when they’ll likely have to be replaced too.

9 Responses to Our complex problem is really pretty basic…

  1. Lots of good ideas there, Jack. One big problem is the courts decided money is speech. Too bad speech isn’t money. That court ruling remains the fly in the ointment that poisons the promise of public campaign financing. A reasonable remedy is full disclosure of contributions. That way, at least we’ll know who they’re in bed with.

  2. Yeah, the money=speech thing is absolutely stupid, John, but it doesn’t harm public financing of campaigns because they are “voluntary.” If a candidate wants to take private money he can, but if he doesn’t want to he doesn’t have to. He can opt for a public grant instead. Arizona has been sued on the speech issue and the moneyed interests lost.

    Disclosure is an oft-suggested fix, but I don’t want to know who is bribing my candidate, I don’t want him bribed at all. And I don’t want to have to chose between two candidates and their bribers. When you really think it through the Arizona and Maine approaches are pretty solid. They have strong public support and 70% of their officeholders are public candidates, including the AZ Governor.

  3. I have to check out the Arizona and Maine systems. Don’t know anything about them. What we have now is a shell game. For example, the Clinton Library is a potential cash cow and money laundering operation. Donors don’t have to be identified. Also, book deals. What if some nefarious organization decides to buy a million or so books written by a candidate? Then dump the books on the secondary market where they might eventually cost somebody a penny. It’s not a bribe, it’s a best seller!

  4. Yes, please check them out, John. Arizona is at http://www.azclean.org, and is the most interesting of the two because they don’t tax the public, they pay for their system with a surcharge on criminal fines. If you don’t want to contribute to the electoral system, don’t speed. They even had a surplus that was given back to the state.

    Yes, the Clintons are interesting. If a special interest wants to get money into Hillary’s pocket all they have to do is pay Bill $200K for a speech or three. She gets half and it’s all legal.

  5. ezag says:

    There is a cosmic connection between politicians and money. I don’t think you can interrupt that connection so long as politicians can distribute favors…and they will always be in position to do that.

    Government entities are just as self-interested and selfish as private entities, so the grand solutions are just as likely to be undermined by those that administer them.

    I think the solution lies in tax reform that ties spending to a broadly based taxation model that I describe in “The Rats are in the Cheese.” Like all solutions, it fails the perfection test, but it is a lot stronger than campaign finance reform.

  6. John says:

    I just posted this on the proposal to add an advisory referendum for universal health care in Wisconsin.

    http://democurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2008/08/health-care-just-like-our-elected.html

  7. Thanks John, keep us posted on your progress….

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