Monday, July 2, 2012

The Loser Generation: Part Five

As detailed in the last post, government is, or can be, the most important force in creating change in the United States today. Most members of the Loser Generation, regardless of other passions, are deeply concerned about the economy. The economy is only one of the grave problems we face as a nation. The mechanism by which these problems may be addressed and solved is supposed to be Congress. But right now, Congress is not addressing these concerns because its Members are seemingly incapable of competent action. At least 80% of our population disapproves of Congress’ lack of action and dysfunctional politics. Both sides of the national aisle can agree that it’s not doing its job at a critical time. One of the reasons for this failure is money in politics.

$4,200,000,000 was spent on the 2010 mid-term elections. The 2008 Presidential elections cost $5.3 billion. That’s more than three times the 2011 Education Department’s Race to the Top budget and the National Cancer Institute’s 2010 allocation to fight cancer, respectively. The lobbyist industry in Washington spent a cool $14 billion over the past four years that could have been better spent elsewhere. Compare the lobbyists’ spending to the salaries paid to the world’s top 50 athletes. Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady and the rest combined made $1.408 billion in 2011. If these salaries were to stay the same for four years, these athletes would be paid $5.6 billion. Even these extremely inflated salaries are still just a third of what lobbyists spent in the same period of time. Politics and money are now paired in a way unseen before, excluding backroom corruption. The need for money to finance campaigns leads to continuous fundraising by American politicians, so they can survive to run again. A Representative needs to raise an average of $10,000 a week for two years for a reelection bid. If you’re not used to raising that much money every week of your life to keep your job, then in the present system, you’re not cut out for politics.

Campaign finance reform is opposed primarily by those who have the money, and by extension the ear, of certain Representatives. The wealthy continue to fight hard to make sure their candidate wins the election. Because he is theirs – bought and paid for. While some earnest Representatives are fighting this corruption, they are outnumbered and outspent. The only hope they can have is that the American people will stand up and fight back. But right now, the well-meaning Representatives are being pummeled, and the American people are doing nothing.

Besides campaign finance reform and lobbyists there are other difficulties that Congress must address in order to get the money out of politics and become more effective. Critically, the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Committee (2010), has led to overwhelming negative public reaction. How is it that 80% of Americans polled can disagree with a governmental action – 80% of Congress’ constituents – yet the unpopular and, as many scholars and politicians have said, dangerous, law can stand?  What’s more, this dangerous decision may well ensure that the 2012 election is the most costly on record.  As dissenting Supreme Court Justice Stevens put it:

“All that the parties dispute is whether Citizen’s United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period. The notion that the First Amendment dictates an affirmative answer to that question is, in my judgment, profoundly misguided. Even more misguided is the notion that the Court must rewrite the law relating to campaign expenditures for for-profit corporations and unions to decide this case.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The lawyer who fought to get Citizens United passed, James Bopp, has endorsed Mitt Romney. Santorum stated that opposition to the decision is “horrible.” Obama, in a reversal of an earlier decision, has created a super PAC (political action committee), a new type of fundraising machine created in 2010 that allows unlimited financing. The possible consequences for our Representatives who already are gathering $10,000 a week is mind-boggling.

This is where the Loser Generation comes in. One doesn’t have to be under 30 to want to change Congress; but since we’re both un- and underemployed and, hopefully, motivated to make the U.S. a better place, we can lead the movement to fix Congress. Until the corrupting influence of money in politics is removed, and Congress is made more efficient, it will be unable to tackle the serious problems. Many Americans consider now to be a time of great crisis and upheaval. The crises that we’ll be facing in the years to come will undoubtedly be great, as is the case for any world power. If Congress is unable to work efficiently to solve these problems, then we will begin a twilight decline that future historians will trace back to the broken system in Washington. The next three installments will underline the critical importance of campaign finance reform, getting rid of lobbyists, and the need to reverse the Citizens United decision. Until we address these problems America cannot get back on track, and our generation is going suffer the more for it. Yet if we – the voters, and the Loser Generation especially – choose to change the system, then the decline need not happen. We have to start a movement not designed to battle for dominance of the beltway, but to fight for a fully functioning government.

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