What would happen if the U.S. Government was beholden to only one interest group–its citizens? Only 2% of We the People can afford lobbyist representation. I am not among them, and chances are, neither are you. What would this country be like if lobbyist activity was restricted much more than it already is? What if corporations didn’t fund our elections, making the winner beholden to his or her corporate sponsors, and our elected officials could vote their consciences? What if corporations did not receive the same constitutional protections enjoyed by U.S. citizens, allowing them to buy elections?
Unscrupulous, greedy people have turned our image of government into a cartoon. The whole concept has been slimed, implying it is “us” vs. “them”. What happened to, “of the people, by the people, for the people”? What happened to it is corporate influence.
The conversation we should be having about government is how it can best help us live more satisfying lives. But this debate has been co-opted by conservative (in this day and age a misnomer) think tanks and TV stations, to name a few things; funded by, guess who, giant corporations who stand to benefit from diverting the government’s limited resources toward maximizing their profits. Some folks have bought the message that what helps corporate bottom lines will also help average citizens. These same characters were in control during the Reagan years, the first and second dynasties of Bush, and to some extent the Clinton years. The economic agenda they implemented has made life for my generation much harder than my parents’. There are as many harsh realities as there are people–people who can’t afford to buy healthful food and instead get fat and malnourished at the same time by eating fast food (*see Texas), people who are reduced to living off of credit cards to stave off foreclosure, people who face financial ruin because of a family member’s illness, people who can’t retire because the financial meltdown stole their savings. We know these people. This is not theoretical. Poverty and homelessness are ever on the rise. Compare this with the economics of past decades, when a household required the income of only one adult to stay afloat, retirement was something people could look forward to, and kids who had the inclination and ability could attend college without undue financial burden being inflicted on the family. Government isn’t functioning on our behalf anymore, clearly. Economic policy, written and voted on by members of congress, created the reality that we live in. This was no “invisible hand”.
If we resolved that elections should be publicly funded, that the constitution doesn’t exist to protect and promote corporate interests, and that you and I should be as powerful as someone who has enough money to hire lobbyists, our government would then begin to function “of the people, by the people and for the people”. We would be able to make a living, we’d be able to raise and educate kids. Instead, we find ourselves mired in this endless economic scramble, watching corporate greed win over and over.
Government needs to exist; in fact, it should be robust, and do our bidding. I am in support of changing the rules of our Democracy so that it functions on behalf of the Other 98%.
Sandra VanderVen, Seattle MoveOn Council Coordinator