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View Full Version : Elections Public Financing, & Debunking One Major Myth


Direckshun
06-14-2011, 01:25 PM
This was brought up in another thread, but I feel we need a return to the topic because there are people on this forum who are holdouts against the idea of public financing.

I think we can all agree to one major postulate: America's politicians (at the very least, on the federal level) are beholden almost entirely to the interests of huge organizations at the expense of (and usually detriment to) Americans as a whole.

If you disagree with that notion, you are welcome to defend it. But I think you are going to be met with a ton of skepticism from your fellow posters at DC, to say nothing of your fellow Americans.

These organizations I refer to are of two major varieties: corporations and interest groups.

And our politics is run almost entirely by them.

Why?

The myth is that our politicians are run by these massive organizations because politicians "lack backbone" or "they're greedy."

Which is only half the truth. The full answer, of course, boils down to money.

No matter how often or how much average Americans pool their resources, they are simply not able to match the ample funds that these organizations can come up with. Private financing of elections, especially with Citizens United and the full scale attacks on any FEC regulations to moderate spending in elections, has precipitated a political system that favors the large few over the small many.

So my question for you:

How do we get away from that?

A series of propositions:

1. I believe the answer has to involve some sort of public financing of political candidates. Make them less beholden to corporations and interest groups by making them primarily reliant on taxpayer money for campaign work.

Interest groups and corporations can still affect elections in this arrangement through soft money. As well they should -- Americans will always organize and try to influence the government, and they have a Constitutional right to.

2. But soft money has no limits. And public financing has no teeth if corporations and interest groups can pour billions into soft money. So capping soft money would have to be a consideration as well. Otherwise, elections will be fought entirely in the indirect, seedy trenches, rather than primarily between the candidates as was intended by the Constitution.

3. Transparency will be necessary if either of the above options don't occur. If we're going to allow Kellogg's to pour $800 million into Obama's campaign or whatever, we should know he's getting the majority of the money from that company -- that's a freakin' bribe for future guarantees, and taxpayers should know what they're getting in office if/when they vote him in.

If both of the above options are accepted, then the outrageous spending in elections is being adequately addressed for my tastes, and I'm happy to relent on this consideration.

4. It is also detrimental to government for election seasons to be as long as they are. In the House of Representatives, you have approximately 8 months to make actual policy, then 14 months to run for reelection. President Obama has already declared that he's running for reelection. Bush declared around this time in his first term. Shorten election seasons is a must.

Long election seasons do three things detrimental to America: (a.) they favor incumbents and extremely rich politicians who can afford to throw a year of their lives away to run for office, (b.) it gives additional power to corporations and interest groups, since longer elections demand more money, and (c.) lowers the window of productivity for government to address any crises or concerns.

Thoughts on the subject are welcome, as always.

HonestChieffan
06-14-2011, 01:36 PM
Interest groups. Are they not made up of "people" who are a cross section of the "American People as a whole"? Why would we have reason to fear groups who band together to support a common interest?

Corporations. They are a business that is owned by shareholders who are also called "people". As a people who is among the shareholders of some 50 corporations held in my portfolio, why should I or my fellow shareholders not have the right to express our political feelings on matters that directly impact the operation and success of that coropration or industry.

Taxpayers already foot the bill for the vast number of non taxpayers. Why should we spend tax dollars, especially in a time of federal deficit and massive debt on another thing that we cannot afford? Do you honestly think, at this point in time with an economy staggered, tax revenues down due to low economic activity that we should go deeper into the hole?

Amnorix
06-14-2011, 01:37 PM
I have long favored public financing of campaigns. The actual cost in dollars would be FAR less than what we pay now by the massive tainting of the entire political system.

Let's say all the elections in a Presidential season are $1B (which seems high to me, but maybe not given 435 House members and hteir opponents plus 33/34 Senate members plus two Presidential candidates). How much money is spent by Congresscritters and Presidents appeasing their donors? $1B seems like chump change compared to that, and comapred to the overall budget.

There is spending, and then spending wisely. Public finance is spending wisely and removing the potential for MASSIVE tainting fo our political system. It also removes alot of the burden from politicians to travel and beg for donations, which is both demenaing and puts them in a position of subservience to moneyed interests.

Direckshun
06-14-2011, 01:43 PM
Interest groups. Are they not made up of "people" who are a cross section of the "American People as a whole"? Why would we have reason to fear groups who band together to support a common interest?

Corporations. They are a business that is owned by shareholders who are also called "people". As a people who is among the shareholders of some 50 corporations held in my portfolio, why should I or my fellow shareholders not have the right to express our political feelings on matters that directly impact the operation and success of that coropration or industry.

What you've done is make an effective argument as to why interest groups and corporations should have influence over elections and politics.

And for that, I agree.

What they shouldn't have is total control over elections and our politics. It is foolish to think that the government acting to appease a handful of interest groups and corporations is beneficial to the country as a whole and average Americans everywhere.

My proposal isn't to marginalize or eliminate these groups. It's to restore the primary control of our politics where it belongs, to the many. With plenty of influence from these organizations allowed.

HonestChieffan
06-14-2011, 01:47 PM
They don't have total control over anything. The voter has total control over the electoral process.

Direckshun
06-14-2011, 01:49 PM
They don't have total control over anything. The voter has total control over the electoral process.

I have a bridge to sell you.

HonestChieffan
06-14-2011, 01:54 PM
If you disallow that votes count, then you have no basis for discussion. Its all in the hands of the individual when they walk into the poll.

What you object to is how the voter is influenced. I would say a small percentage are influenced by most of the interest groups and corporations you focus on.

Amnorix
06-14-2011, 01:55 PM
Interest groups. Are they not made up of "people" who are a cross section of the "American People as a whole"? Why would we have reason to fear groups who band together to support a common interest?

Corporations. They are a business that is owned by shareholders who are also called "people". As a people who is among the shareholders of some 50 corporations held in my portfolio, why should I or my fellow shareholders not have the right to express our political feelings on matters that directly impact the operation and success of that coropration or industry.

Taxpayers already foot the bill for the vast number of non taxpayers. Why should we spend tax dollars, especially in a time of federal deficit and massive debt on another thing that we cannot afford? Do you honestly think, at this point in time with an economy staggered, tax revenues down due to low economic activity that we should go deeper into the hole?


What we have is a system where moneyed interests have a vast and disproportionate influence on politicians, which often gets used to their benefit and the detriment of the American electorate as a whole.

HonestChieffan
06-14-2011, 02:00 PM
At the same time corporations are the target for misguided regulations, restrictions, and tax schemes that are created by politicians. If they are not allowed to defend the industry, segment, or individual business from powerful and influential politicians with a self preservation interest, how is that fair?


If corporations are made up of people and so are interest groups, and those entities do an adequate job of protecting themselves and their interests from government over reach, have we not served the electorate as a whole?

Amnorix
06-14-2011, 02:32 PM
At the same time corporations are the target for misguided regulations, restrictions, and tax schemes that are created by politicians. If they are not allowed to defend the industry, segment, or individual business from powerful and influential politicians with a self preservation interest, how is that fair?

So wait, corporations and special interests groups and their money do or don't exert control over the legislative process? I thought voters had 100% control...

If corporations are made up of people and so are interest groups, and those entities do an adequate job of protecting themselves and their interests from government over reach, have we not served the electorate as a whole?

The problem is that their interests are utterly myopic, and that often there is no one actively competing against the interest they are agitating for, or at least no one with any resources competing against such interest.

If someone with phenomenal access and monetary power -- let's say, completely hypothetically, military contractors -- are agitating for a new contract for something the United States really doesn't need, they may well get it despite the fact that it is almost completely wasteful.

FishingRod
06-14-2011, 02:34 PM
So since the Democrats and Republicans control where the money would come from you wouldn’t suppose that they would set it up in such a manner that someone from another party would have even less of a chance than they do now? I understand the idea of public financing being some sort of panacea but politicians being able to decide how much of our money can be spent by "them" to keep their own jobs is a bit jacked up. Being beholden is a double edged sword. Public finance makes them beholden only to their party.