Monday, January 21, 2013

Restoring American Democracy, Part V- The Lobbyists

Legal Felony

I am a simple man.  I work in sales in the foliage industry., and I have no claim to understand the inner workings of our government.  I do, however know enough to recognize when something is going on that just doesn't sit right.  The one big "whopper" in this genre, is the Lobbying industry.  Did you know there are over 13,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, DC ?!  That is not accounting for the massive numbers of lobbyists at the state and even local level.  For our purposes, we will try to keep our minds wrapped around the abomination going on in Washington, and I will leave all of  you readers to consider your own state leaders as it's overwhelming to consider ALL the levels of government as they rob us all blind of our right to a representative government.  A similar objective would be to consider the billions of stars in the known universe and claim you can fathom such size.  Even the very "idea" of 13,000 lobbyists is hard to understand when we have a total of 535 elected legislative leaders, and one President.   How does anything get done?  Well, it doesn't really as we all know by now, our Congress is incapable of DOING anything, which is one of the main reasons I write this blog.

The lobbyists exist under the auspice that our constitution allows for the people's right to petition the government.  Note it says "people"., so right at the very beginning we have evidence that the original intention of our founding fathers has gone astray.  These are not people., 'nor do they represent the people other than the well connected people of our largest corporations, unions, law firms, accounting firms, associations (ie, NRA) and every other "special interest" that you can dream up.  All the people that can afford their services, is what it all has become.

The amount of money spent on lobbying in Washington, DC has gone up by seven times since 1980.   The amount spent is at an astounding $3.4 Billion annually as of 2010 ! That's up from $1.44 Billion just since 1990. Nearly triple in 20 years.

So, who are these lobbyists, exactly ?

The largest contributing industry in 2010?    Pharmaceuticals which spent $241,075,934 in 2010 and they have spent a whopping $2,081,240,642 since 1998.   Consider that fact the next time you pay well over $100 for the newest drug., and I promise you they don't spend that much money because they're so anxious to get the American people the best drugs money can buy.  A close second was the electric utilities at $191,304,085 in 2010 and $1,417,711,382 since 1998.  Although the insurance industry has been losing ground the last year or so, they still get an "also ran" award for placing second overall in this category by spending $1,499,821,977 since 1998 to get their "fair share".   Again, any reasonably intelligent grown up understands they aren't in DC  because they have a mission of good will to all people.  $1.5 Billion to make sure congress does exactly what?

The largest single contributors?    The US Chamber of Commerce for 2010 which was at $132,067,500. They have spent a massive $738,825,680 since 1998.  Second: PG&E Group (Pacific Gas & Electric Co.) at $45,460,000 for 2010.    The all time "winner" for 1998-2010 was the American Medical Association at $243,277,500. The American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical lobbyists must have a good time discussing strategies at the taverns and bars in Georgetown. The two together have spent nearly $3 Billion since 1990.  That much money chasing what results?  It's not as if our health care systems is a shining example of human capabilities !  I guess it works well for them.   They're not stupid enough to spend $3 Billion for nothing,......only the government does dumb things like that.

This has been one of the hardest blogs for me to write because I tend to acknowledge both sides of arguments, but I see no argument to support such obscene amounts of money being spent by the moneyed and powerful.  They steer our government to make specific decisions that would obviously be in their favor.

In "Common Sense", Thomas Paine began by writing:  "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right". Thomas Paine was talking about the King of England,  I think it applies today to the lobbying industry.  We've seen it so long, that it seems like an ordinary way of "doing government business".  An unfortunate necessity.   But,  what's going on is wrong.   Like slithering snakes, these lobbyists have coiled themselves around the very freedoms and liberties our young men and women fight for over seas, choking those freedoms into submission in the name of corporate welfare.  These people have an undue influence on our government  and its operation.  I am afraid that our leaders in Washington, DC consider, first and foremost,  "what would be the best course of action to grease the palms of those that will get me reelected?".  Any benefit to the American people would be a happy circumstance..... a pleasant coincidence.  With lobbyists whispering in their ear, the focus and targets and ambitions of our leaders is rooted in the matter of how they might yield more power to the already powerful.   Indeed, it is today not uncommon for legislative leaders to simply "hand over" the writing of laws to the lobbyist so that they might construct laws according to every detail of his or her clients' needs.  Subsequently  the legislator simply submits a facsimile to Congress for approval., a practice shocking in its audacity.  Such unmitigated gall.  Few people on earth could sleep at night having vowed in their elections to work "for the people", and do so much to the contrary once they reach our nation's capital.  There must be training at the Universities or in the law schools that teaches young minds how to shut off their conscience so that as they doze off to sleep they aren't jolted back awake by memory of their daily interactions.

So, what is the solution?  Remove the money from the process.  In this case, an elected official is much less inclined to listen to the lobbyist if there is no need for the money to be re-elected.  Although, each official is certainly open to being "bribed" as would any person in power, such an arrangement becomes a felony rather than the "protected" felony that today's lobbying industry is.   An elected official will certainly still be the source of the lobbyists attention and I'm not so gullible as to think they would disappear entirely, but their influence will be reduced drastically once the rewards for all that work yields simple "attention" and not "obligation".   Once again, the solution is to remove money from the process of electing officials, let the best leaders rise to the top and let the most moneyed go back to the business of earning a fortune, not stealing it from the American people.  

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