I have come to the conclusion that we the people need our own lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
Yes, I know, that document entitled the U.S. Constitution establishes a framework for representation of the people’s interests — we call them senators and representatives — but is there any doubt that representing constituents is secondary to voting the will of special interests with campaign cash? Indeed, it could be argued that representing the interests of the people is a distant third, after special interests and towing the partisan party line.
In theory, representatives work for the best interests of their constituents in order to be re-elected. But, in today’s world, constituents seldom have any idea what their representatives are actually doing. Our media’s fascination with the horse race aspects of politics and governance — which side won, which side lost — ensures voters have precious few facts upon which to evaluate their representatives. We’re given meaningless spin and, to put it plainly, fabrications and lies that are designed to appeal to our biases and have nothing to do with reality.
So it’s like finding a source of water in the desert when real working jour
nalists actually practice their profession and inform us of facts our representatives don’t want us to know. Some print journalists have been doing exactly that with their investigative reports on special interest lobbying behind the scenes on the budget deal that narrowly averted a government shutdown.
Special interest lobbying won deals that had nothing to do with spending levels, budgets or deficits. The six-month funding of the federal government represented a bonus round for lobbyists to exert their political muscle and have their efforts be lost in the complexity of the budget resolution. It’s like hiding corruption in plain sight.
The budget deal removed an animal from the endangered species list, the first known instance of Congress’ direct intervention in the list. It passed easily without hearings, testimony or even the pretense of facts. If you’re wondering what the elimination of an animal from the endangered species list has to do with spending cuts, wonder no more — the answer is nothing.
Special interests successfully fought back efforts to restrict federal funds to private commercial colleges caught on videotape committing outrageous fraud by investigators of the General Accounting Office. These so-called counselors, paid by commission, repeatedly told undercover students they would never have to pay back their college loans and advised them not to report income and assets that would render them ineligible for loans. Our elected officials sided with lobbyists and ensured taxpayers will continue to pay these corrupt private businesses masquerading as colleges.
One of the most successful lobbying efforts was led by the Business Roundtable, a coalition of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies. They used the frantic negotiations to wipe out portions of the health care reform bill they weren’t able to kill during that bill’s tortuous passage. Their efforts actually add to the projected deficit, but hey, numbers don’t count when special interests get their way, right?
On another lobbying front, some business media are reporting on the efforts of our too-big-to-fail bank lobby to get around provisions of the weak financial services reform passed after Wall Street and the banking industry collapsed like a house of cards under the weight of their financial shenanigans.
The banks, it seems, are very upset that Americans are starting to live more within their means and aren’t charging enough. To Wall Street’s way of thinking, that’s downright un-American because Wall Street counts on consumer debt — credit card, college loans, car loans — to turn into bundled assets sliced and diced into financial derivatives. (Yes, just like synthetic mortgage derivatives.)
To subvert this new, terrible habit of Americans living within their means, the banks are proposing changes to regulations that will make using debit cards harder and costlier. They’re also considering placing a $50 maximum on debit card transactions, limiting consumers’ ability to bypass credit cards for many transactions. And, shockingly enough, they’re moving in lockstep with each other, because, hey, who pays attention to price fixing and antitrust laws when business raises its unified voice?
We the people have little recourse to combat this monopolization of our representatives by special interests. Our Supreme Court has determined that the economic entities known as corporations have the same rights as people, and, they’ve decreed, the ability to dispense campaign cash equals free speech. Thus, we find ourselves in an unnatural reality where economic entities considered people have massively more free speech rights than people who actually inhabit a human body.
No wonder Congress pays so little attention to we the people.