Americans are angry…
a survey taken this summer found that fewer people perceived there are strong conflicts between blacks and whites than saw strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born, or between rich people and poor people.
However, I submit that most Americans are blaming the wrong people. They are ignorant of the realities that shape policy, laws and regulations. Here are a few facts gathered over the last week.
1- Of 2,737 lobbyists hired to promote the interests of drug companies, insurers, hospitals, health professionals, industry groups and business organizations, 1,418 — or 52 percent — have worked for Congress, the White House or federal agencies. That includes 55 former members of Congress.
2- Lobbyists outnumber Congress (both houses combined) by over 3 to 1.
3- Commercial banks, by the end of Aug. ’09, contributed almost $2M to House members and almost $600K to the Senate.
4- Excluding Presidential candidates, the health care sector contributed over $12M to Senate members last year.
5- A large percentage of Senators are multi-millionaires even though their salaries are around $200K. (I suspect most became millionaires while in office!)
6- A Congress member’s personal PAC remains largely unregulated so the funds can be used for any purpose to which the Congress person wishes: golf at expensive resorts, private planes, trips around the world, etc. In addition, contributions to those PACs remain largely unrecorded and thus unregulated.
7- In spite of numerous complaints of mortgage fraud by independent mortgage companies and bank affiliates (i.e. Household Finance-HSBC, Wells Fargo Financial-Well Fargo Bank) dating back to 2000, the Fed refused to investigate subprime practices by these bank-held affiliates until July 2007.
8- As a result of financial industry lobbying, the proposed Consumer Protection Agency will probably be defeated and new financial industry regulations will be severely watered down, leading some to believe that another financial meltdown will probably occur in the future.
Sources: Business Week, 9/21/09 issue; Washington Post, 9/27/09 issue; Open Secrets
Need more stats to prove that Congress is not only out of touch with the American people but have chosen to look after themselves and their friends and benefactors before the people?
However, just voting out everyone will not change the game. The rules must be changed if honest representation of the people – the kind of government Jefferson and Madison envisioned – is to return.
As long as gerrymandered districts remain, creating safe congressional districts for a single party, throwing out one “bum” for another won’t change anything. The new “bum” will still have the same stripes. Only through redistricting can congressional districts be drawn so that both parties are represented in a single district, thereby allowing more moderate, collaborative candidates to enter the races and potentially win. In addition, redistricting will force the change of so-called “safe seats” that have benefited long standing members of Congress.
Secondarily, contribution laws must change so that lobbyists and PACs have less influence. Right now the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to overturn McCain-Feingold which limits corporate contributions. If that law is overthrown, corporations will be permitted to give unlimited amounts to a candidate of their choice, obviously one who is sympathetic to that company. Moreover, the candidate able to raise the most money (from companies) will have a greater chance of influencing the public’s vote. Therefore, fundraising rules need to change.
All elections must either be wholly-publically funded or all funds must come from small donations of no more than $100 with PACs and corporations prohibited. The idea of “one person – one vote” has been perverted by special interests.
And finally greater transparency and accountability must become part of Congressional reporting. The public needs to know from where every contributed dime comes and how it’s spent. The public needs to know who has influence on Congress members.
No Congressional candidate is going to change the rules unless the public forces them. As a result, every person running for office must be forced to sign onto enforced, verifiable rule changes. The public deserves representatives that works for them, protects them, and serves them – not the special interests.