Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Immodest Proposal 

The single biggest problem in American politics today is that there is too much money in it all the way around. It takes a fortune to run for office, so politics instantly exclude a vast majority of citizens who do not have the money or connections necessary to run. Consequently, we wind up with people in office who only run because they want two things: money and power. They use one to make the other and vice versa, in a never-ending cycle.

So... when big problems come up that need fixing, the elected always think of themselves first. It doesn't matter what their politics are when their wallet is affected. Most of the time, when given the choice, people will take the one that costs them less in the long run. (Exception that proves the rule, the voters of California who decided to pass a sales tax increase back in November. You are all idiots.)

So... until we have elected officials who aren't all power- and money-whores, they will serve the interests of the rich and the corporations and the bankers and the lobbyists, and our needs and demands will be meaningless.

How do we fix this? Change the law, like so:
  1. Getting elected to office means total divestment of all assets upon taking office, and elected officials are paid mostly in services rather than cash, getting free housing, transportation, meals and medical benefits, but earning a wage more in line with middle-management at a large corporation, rather than an executive.

  2. The jobs do come with a pension, locked to the top-tier payout rate for Social Security benefits.

  3. No sitting official is allowed to solicit or accept campaign donations or any non-tangible gifts from any person, committee, company, foreign national or other entity, or hold any funds in trust, escrow, or blind account.

  4. As part of their licensing requirements, media companies must provide free campaign advertising and coverage for all candidates within their broadcast range (whether TV, internet, wireless, or broadcast technology yet to be invented), dividing up a designated two hours a day for ninety days before the election among all qualified candidates.

  5. To qualify for the ballot, you just need to be a registered voter within the district who can show up at an office, fill out a few forms and sign your name. No candidate can spend more than ten percent of their own net worth upon applying for office for campaigning. (True, still economically biased, but it favors those who know how to stretch a dollar.)
Bingo -- what happens? The people who are in politics for the power and money won't go anywhere near it. Why? There's no profit to be made. This would kick the legs right out from under all the PACs and special interests and corporations, and make those who are elected responsive only to we, the People, since we'll have elected officials who lust after power and fame, their constituents the only source of either.

Once upon a time, people joined religious orders because they were interested in the betterment of humanity, and not their own needs. It didn't cost them anything to do it other than going to their local church and expressing their interest. Wham -- you're in the seminary or convent. And it was frequently the "weird" kid in the family who did this; the one who was smarter than all his or her siblings, always asking questions, always reading, always most likely to be taking care of things when someone was sick... The kid in the family who wanted to be rich and famous, of course, was ignoring everyone else, except when it was necessary to faun for support financially or otherwise. Which sounds like the perfect description for any elected official at all.

Now, I'm not a religious person, I'm a raving atheist. But I do think that the US Constitution and the duty of every elected official is sacred -- you serve the People, not yourself; you defend the Constitution above anything else at all. This principal of government has been long-forgotten, but making going into politics more like taking holy orders than winning an Oscar is a good start. We need to change the definition of "Service" in "Public Service" back to what it used to mean. Once upon a time, it meant "service" as in "wait upon" -- take Our orders, fulfill our needs. Somewhere along the way, it changed to "service" as in "to screw".

Until we put politicians back in their proper place, we're all going to continue to get screwed.


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