A friend announced at lunch the other day that she had stopped watching television news for the time being. She said she was so disgusted with the way political leaders were ignoring the people’s will that it made her stomach queasy when she got to the dinner table. She said it was understandable why people stopped going to the polls to vote, because the two parties could obviously care less.
Later that day I thought about her statement as the list of serious issues not being addressed in the best interests of the people rolled out across the surface of my mind: the war in Iraq, trade and energy policies, health care, illegal immigration. Thinking back, I tried to think of what had changed in America that empowered the politicians to thumb their nose at public opinion. The answer, of course, is clear. The lobbyists with their suitcases full of money have replaced the voters in selecting the winners at the polls.
In order to run for national office you have to have enough money to conduct a campaign. To get your message across you have to advertise on television. Daily advertising on television during a six-month campaign could cost more money than many people earn in a lifetime. Unless a candidate has big contributors, chances are he or she will never make it to the finish line. The voter only gets to choose between those left standing.
As things are it would seem we have lost the chance to ever have efficient and effective government. It’s true that the rich have always been in charge of the way things work, but there was a time that, in order to get the work done, they had to accommodate the worker. Now that’s no longer necessary; they can either send the work out of the country to be done or bring foreign workers in to do it. Remember how it was supposedly the right thing to do to raise the federal minimum wage? What happened to that idea?
Even if the majority of the citizenry realized that the rich and the super-rich don’t feel that it is necessary to have a middle class to keep the country functioning at its best, I’m not sure anything could be done about it. While the public was glued to the set watching reality television, the country was being globalized, pretty much putting the finishing touches on the needs of the affluent. As the poor get increasingly poorer, layers of the middle-class will continue to get peeled away. Maybe the thousands being laid off from major industries can find other jobs, but will the new jobs pay as much as they earned at their old jobs? Or will they just have to take what they can get or work two jobs to get by?
I feel that we got started down this path with the deregulation of goods and services. Monopolies are now good things, encouraging competition and driving down the prices, right? They also seem to create bigger monopolies, until, in some industries, a handful of individuals wind up owning all the companies, which really doesn’t equate to serious competition. I don’t know of anyone who thinks the quality of programming has improved or the prices are lower with the deregulation of cable television. And most people would rather not talk about the horrible things that happened in the big deregulation of the savings and loan industry. Undoubtedly, if deregulation was more carefully controlled, it would not be all bad. It’s just that where the opportunity to make money exists, some politicians who make the rules lose all sense of reason.
In any case, I doubt there will ever be any campaign reform. The fat cats like it this way. As long as they can control elected officials, their chances of getting richer will never be better. Even those who think that the answer to the problem lies in changing political parties are finally waking up to the fact that most issues will be decided in favor of whomever has the most money invested in the outcome.
When money talks, the government listens. It as simple as that.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.