By Brian McKay
Do we actually live in a democracy? Not really. We’ve really become a plutocracy bordering on becoming neo-feudalism. Sure we go out and vote, attend rally’s or caucus. Your friends, with nothing better to do, post shitty, illogical political memes all day on Facebook. Arguments on social media eventually end up comparing the president or a candidate to Hitler (it always ends up with Hitler). Heck, last week you might even have responded to a campaign solicitation for money that looked like a Publishers Clearing House letter. We’re involved politically but this still isn’t a democracy and our participation means less and less with each passing year.
Someone else is running the show now instead of you.
Political campaigns are now reaching the collective billion-dollar mark in presidential elections. Elections for federal representatives can run 10’s of millions of dollars and even state campaigns now hit the million-dollar mark. It has always been just fascinating that a job that pays $174,000 a year as a U.S. Congressman costs $30 million to get. What the hell is that all about? Isn’t there a rule that if someone offers you a job through an email that you have to pay to get, it’s a scam? Maybe the more you have to pay, the bigger the scam.
Those same expensive campaigns translate into massive amounts of advertising that drive you absolutely nuts. Candidates now regress into name calling (and now body shaming; a new low) at an ever increasing rate, instead of getting out and really having to communicate and shake hands. Super PACs rise out of nowhere, raise millions, pay the people that run them huge money, and buy add time attacking everyone they don’t like. All of this pushes TV ad prices, in local markets, up so much before elections that little companies can’t even afford to run their commercials.
Congress is less and less beholden to the actual welfare of the voter. Subsidies to companies in their states are written into bills with a higher frequency than footnotes in a Bill O’Reilly "Killing Someone from the Past" book. Actually, maybe take a real history book, that is based in truth, and it is still way more.
Laws have been passed that have hurt the voter in favor of corporations! Honestly. One need only look at the bankruptcy reforms enacted in 2005, to see that the whole damn thing was done for the credit card companies. Regardless of your views on GMO’s, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in 2015 that states cannot require GMO labeling; not because it was in anyone’s best interest but because the food lobby said too. Even right now there is a huge push to withdraw the financial rules enacted to protect the consumer after the 2008 meltdown. YOUR Congressman is pushing this rollback because Wall Street wants it done.
The absolute best return on investment of anything a company does, is lobbying! Seriously, a company could make the coolest product in the world with an insane 80% profit margin and the money they spend on lobbying still returns more back them. One more time for effect. They can make the coolest, most bad ass product in the history of the world or pay a lobbyist and the lobbyist is the better deal for the amount of money invested.
Your Representatives, whether at the State or Federal level, love lobbyists. In fact, they probably want to be one and make some serious cash after leaving office. Heck, since that is such a great idea they’ll gladly get all lovey with their potential employers. Can you blame them? If a company offered you a cool million a year but you had run a marathon first, you’d go out to buy new shoes and start training immediately.
If that person that sits in the halls of Congress everyday decides the benefit plan is pretty damn good and wants to make a career of it; well those lobbyist guys help with that too. The more money in your campaign war chest, the easier it is to stay in office and beat all your challengers. Money stacks the odds so heavily in the favor of the incumbent that only massive, collective outrage gets someone else into that office.
So this thing doesn’t belong to us anymore. It belongs to them; those guys with the money to fund it all. The laws are increasingly written for them. Systems are put in place to protect their money. The guys they pay to say how friggin’ awesome this new law is, are buying your Congressman a drink and a steak right now.
Want it back?
If you center your vote around just one thing, let it be for complete and total campaign finance reform. Make their asses beat the street with a limited budget and actually shake some hands. Eliminate the massive ad buys, the advantage of money, the cushy campaign busses and make running for office an actual exchange of ideas. How novel would that be?
Democracy and power to the people will return when everyone running for elected office are only allowed the same amount of money for their campaigns. Super PACs must be eliminated through a constitutional amendment that rolls back Citizen’s United (and no, corporations are not people like the ruling stated!). Let’s make it so that lobbyists can only give your representative one of those stress ball squishy things and a 24 ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon. Finally, once someone has been in elected office they cannot become a lobbyist or join the boards of publically traded companies.
THIS gets democracy back. Regardless of the party or candidate you vote for, complete and total campaign finance reform makes you a relevant part of the equation again. Find the candidate, whoever it may be, that really wants this and vote for them. Send your representatives this article and say, “This is how you earn my vote in the future!” Make this the biggest topic of this election year and take it all back.
Everything starts at campaign finance reform. Once we democracy back, laws will reflect the will of the people, compromise will have to return and sanity could possibly prevail. How lovely. Take it back. Go zenrupt some politics.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Gonzaga University and his MBA from Boise State University. He has this novel idea that if we start now, something can be left for our kids. Last night, he paid way too much for an IPA at a trendy place and it made him realize the beauty of dive bars filled with cool old guys.