>> Sunday, November 29, 2009
*Steps on Soapbox*
Once again, it's time to complain. I work, indirectly, for the government. Since I work for a nonprofit, we don't really compete much for space contracts. However, if I gave a NASA employee anything more than $10, it would be considered a conflict of interest, whether it was because I was best friends or just wanted to pick up a dinner tab. I'm not complaining. There are very good reasons why such things are illegal, why insider trading is illegal, why I support full disclosure. People paid by the defense (or prosecution), by an advertising agency, etc. have a monetary reason to say something, whether they agree entirely or not. They have something to gain. It affects objectivity.
People understand this and often become upset when they realize an "expert" has provided an opinion, driven by greed. They know that insider trading can let people take advantage of information they shouldn't have to buy and sell at the expense of others who don't have that information. That kind of cheating can cost people everything.
So, why is it that the people who write the laws that determine our regulations, that take us in and out of war, that determine social services, how many and what kind, that, in fact, are key elements in the lives we all lead, can be legally bought and sold by special interests. And why, as the public these people were elected to serve, aren't we shouting louder about this travesty?
We object to NASA employees getting bought dinner, but shrug our shoulders when congresspeople and senators jet from coast to coast to be wined and dined by insurance lobbies and tobacco interests, pharmaceutical companies and military contractors, big oil and big business. Millions of dollars (literally) are poured into campaign funds knowing that getting someone elected serves to get this public servant to serve your interests - and hang the public! This isn't a democrat thing or a republican thing. They all have dirty mitts covered with filthy lucre.
People say, there's nothing we can do about that. The system is the way it is.
I call BS. Someone explain to me why campaigns need millions of dollars, billions of dollars? Why are lobbyist a legal profession, people who make a living influencing our lawmakers through wealth?
In an ideal world, our government system might work quite well - if we weren't complacent about our duly elected (and paid) public servants being legally bribed. If elections were conducted by each candidate given 500 words to explain why they are the best choice (which they can choose to sell themselves or slam their opponent, their choice). Those 500 words are fact-checked by an independent agency and everything dishonest is deleted. You lie, you get nothing in your spot. Then, include a "resume" - all the jobs you've ever had, all the interests you still have (like, say, oil investments), and, if you've been a lawmaker before (or are the incumbent), your complete voting record. with an option to provide a rationale (100 words or less) on why you voted no. And all the bills you sponsored or cosponsored.
That should tell a constituent what you stand for, what you believe in, and, if they know your past campaigns, how well you did what you promised. That should be all you need.
Someone wants to stage public debates, that's fine - in a public forum.
No TV/radio ads. No hints that this opponent or another is Hitler in disguise or a closet Mengele.
Government pays to distribute these to every registered owner and place them in libraries, public buildings and on a website. You won't have to be rich to be elected or sell your soul to special interests. And, if someone does the latter, he can be readily spotted and his skin nailed to the wall.
It's our country, damn it, and the public servant should be serving the public interest and no one else's.
At least that's what I think.
*Steps off soapbox*