Saturday, October 15, 2011

Campaign Finance Reform

If the Occupy movements can focus their ire on campaign and other political finance reform, I might just join up. That part of their message resonates with me and with a lot of other people.

I think there are a lot of problems. Poor people really can't run for president, or even congress, for example, because it costs too much.  But if you force all donations into a pool that it split evenly, then people don't feel like they are supporting the candidate who best reflects their own values and interests (and people should be allowed to do that). Lobbyists are another problem.  Earmarks are another. Taxes are another. Social Security and Medicare are another. All these money-based problems that we can't just keep putting bandaids on. Even outside problems, like Education, are tied tightly to funding issues. And when the funding is coming from someone with special interests, they expect they are paying for their way to be THE way, and in a lot of ways that's what's happening. Anyone with money can get things done in their favor, even at the expense of what's good for the nation, and that's what has Occupy mad. And in that, I agree with them. (Not so sure about their methods or lack of suggestions for solutions, though, and I'm still pretty sure they're throwing too many things into the pot and refusing to identify precise issues that can and should be I'm still not joining them.)

And any solution meets with resistance because the people who are benefiting from the corruption are the ones who make the laws. Hard to combat that! No wonder Occupy is mad.

I have begun to wonder if the solutions aren't deceptively simple.

What if all donations to all political candidates and parties were required to be anonymous and all donations had to be made via the internet or direct deposit into funding bank accounts--so no more fund-raising dinners, etc.? And what if the candidate ever found out who the money came from, they would forfeit it? I don't know enough about how the government works to know if this would cause other problems, and it doesn't solve the poor people can't get elected problem, but it would make it so candidates were not beholden to any one person or corporation. (Would it be too hard to enforce? What would stop someone from getting a phone call at midnight?)

What if all political candidates were limited in the amount they could spend, and all excess they raised (from their anonymous donors) was put into a fund to benefit poor candidates--or all candidates--in the next election cycle? Or the excess was all donated to reducing the national debt? (This would only work if the total raised for each candidate was kept secret until after the election cycle was over--so that people would keep donating to their chosen candidate even after they reached their limit).

What about a flat tax?

What about banning paid lobbyists? Or requiring lobbyists to only talk to their own representative or senator, who represents the area they actually live in?

Personally, I was delighted to get my municipal ballot in the mail this year (we do mail-in voting here, and I LOVE it!) and to find that there was no mention of political party on any of the candidates on the ballot, or on their own websites. So instead of having a bias based on their party affiliation, I was able to just look at their proposals and their qualifications to make my choices. It was refreshing! Is there a way to get that on a national level? Is there a simple, straightforward way to reduce the power of the political parties--because right now they have as much or more sway over the candidates in office as the corporations who fund the campaigns. Obama was totally a pawn of his party, as are most of the people in office right now--and Obama's attempts to think for himself have caused him serious problems. It almost doesn't matter what candidate you vote for because the party and the party bosses are actually in charge. So is there a way to minimize that power?

While I disagree with a lot of what Occupy does,  I think they will have done a great favor to the nation if they can get enough ire up to get these things changed (even if the ideas are coming from people who actually believe in solving problems instead of just complaining about them, and even if the change ultimately comes from people who occupy the polls and their representatives' inboxes instead of the parks). Because, really, do any of us like the good old boy system? I think only the good old boys do.

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