The United States of America is currently confronting its most dangerous threat. This threat is not from terrorist. This threat is not from natural disaster, an energy crisis or pollution. Contrary to the news, this threat is not the Tea Party or Obamacare, depending upon which news source you use. Rather, this threat is an insidious corruption of our government. The threat is our political campaign system.
This issue has already reached the Federal Supreme Court numerous times. One could easily write a book listing the detrimental ramification of our current political campaign system. In fact, a number of excellent books have been composed on this subject. To be brief though, here is the worst: Our current system of campaign finance completely annuls our electoral system.
Think your vote counts? Well it should, but let’s take a closer look.
We are supposed to live in a Democratic Republic. Our government officials are elected by popular vote. This ensures that every qualified voter chooses who they want to lead in federal, state and local governments.
The McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, which removes all limits for campaign contributions, allows the selection of candidates to be determined by an extreme minority. With this system, voters may only vote for the candidates the financial backers promote onto the ballot. Obviously this is not democratic. This is a Plutocratic Republic.
If the government officials are selected by financial backers before the voters, the official’s constituents are not the voters, the official’s constituents are the financial backers.
There are a number of detrimental consequences to this. The most immediate threat is on the financial market, upon which all our livelihoods depend. The financial market must be regulated.
Keep in mind, I say this as an avowed financial liberal who believes in minimal financial regulations. Excessive regulation stifles the economy, but no regulations allow the economy to veer off into suicidal direction.
Adam Smith’s concept of the “invisible hand” is a beautiful idea, but it is not practical. Nature also regulates itself by an “invisible hand” for population control, unfortunately this invisible hand is famine and starvation. As the old aphorism declares, “Those who cannot control themselves will be controlled by nature.”
History clearly shows the fallacy of unregulated markets. A century ago laissez-faire policies resulted in the emergence of robber barons and monopolies. More recently, we had the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. Lack of regulations sent lenders in a race to the bottom that consequently tanked the economy and forced millions of people out of their homes while also severely harming our international relations.
An independent agency must regulate the financial market. This agency is the government. Our government officials cannot objectively arbitrate the financial market if they are beholden to major financial entities. If this issue is not addressed, it will destroy the financial and commercial markets of the United States.
On a more positive note, this travesty provides the people of New York with a wonderful opportunity. Governor Cuomo has expressed his interest in reforming state election campaigns. Unfortunately, he and the state legislation have not made much progress in accomplishing this.
This is understandable. Not only is campaign finance reform sternly opposed by lobbies and special interest groups, there are some logistics to contend with. Current campaigns utilize advertisement space on mass-market media and this space costs billions of dollars.
As an alternative, the State of New York could provide a relatively inexpensive platform for political campaigns on the internet. This platform would provide a more level playing field for candidates and shift the weight from the financial coffers to the candidates’ values and ideas. The site could also provide a platform for viewing debates and potentially allow candidates to interact directly with the voters they aspire to represent.
This would also provide an excellent boost for the technology industry in New York. Plus, New York would have another opportunity to lead the nation by providing a model for the reform of state and national elections.
To see a movement that is working to amend the constitution to remove money from politics, and take note because this movement is gaining in congressional support, click here: www.stampstampede.org
Garrett Buhl Robinson is a poet and novelist living in Brooklyn. www.garrettrobinson.us