Magazine article The American Conservative

The Public Trough

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Public Trough

Article excerpt

Last year, over 15,000 individuals worked for organizations whose sole goal was to rip you off. No, not the mafia or Goldman Sachs, but another distinctly criminal class--Washington lobbyists. In 2008, corporations and unions spent over $3 billion to bribe officials who claim to work for you.

Because the federal government has so much power and money, it makes sense that private companies want to influence public policy: make friends with the bully and try to snag some stolen lunch money. But this metaphor is unfair. The bully is a lone individual without much control over the school as a whole. The federal government, by contrast, regulates nearly every aspect of the economy. It legislates healthcare, controls the money supply, sets fuel standards and minimum wage laws, tells us what milk to drink and how much water should fill our toilets. Naturally, then, companies want to make sure that big bad government doesn't vote to restrict their business. They might also get some lunch money out of it.

Unsurprisingly, the areas where government has the most involvement are the areas with the most lobbyists. Healthcare crisis? Over $3.4 billion in the last ten years spent lobbying. Banking crisis? Over $3.5 billion. Energy crisis? Over $2.4 billion. Those lobbyist dollars are one reason such problems persist. Instead of voting to address a crisis, politicians vote to appease a select few insiders.

The public has caught on and demands change. But Congress rarely delivers solutions. Instead, it uses problems as pretexts for restricting our liberties and aggrandizing itself. In response to the demand for reform, the best our Congress could come up with was McCain-Feingold.

This dangerous piece of legislation is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. My anti-tax group is prohibited from purchasing ads criticizing a congressman within 60 days of an election. McCain-Feingold and the courts believe that paid speech by private citizens is somehow different from speech by the mainstream media. They refuse to acknowledge that a newspaper editorial is also paid speech, in that it costs money to produce and even has an equivalent price if a political party wants to buy the column inches. Yet the law treats the individual's speech as somehow less worthy of protection.

For the political class, a convenient consequence of McCain-Feingold has been to insulate incumbents from being voted out of office. …

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