Thursday, November 19, 2009
We recently had the opportunity to meet Lee Schaeffer, the Founder of America 357. America 357 is dedicated to the proposition that the citizens of the United States can and must conduct our national legislative business with civil discourse, and that its conduct must appear to follow the rules of Common Sense.
Mr. Schaeffer and his followers believe that we must end the partisan bickering and focus the nation’s energies on the pursuit of effective solutions to America’s most pressing issues, without regard to party interest, self-interest, or special interest.
Part of this approach involves re-thinking the way in which we engage the youth of our nation at all levels. Although the work of America 357 is not specifically directed toward the Institute’s target audience of college students, there are similarities in approach and principle between our two organizations. Mr. Schaeffer is our Guest Author in connection with the following post.
© 2009, America 357, Inc.
With all the buzz around Washington these days about Lobbyist Reform, and in light of recent abuses, perhaps now would be a good time to put this in perspective for the average American “outside the Beltway."
And what could be easier for the average person to understand than banks. After all, that is where almost all of us put our money for safe keeping. Therefore most people should favor Bank Robbery Reform, right?
And who better to come up with these needed reforms than, well, bank robbers, of course. One could just imagine the results of such an effort.
One possible reform would be to be limit the amount of money a crook could take on a given heist, to say, $50,000. Another rule might permit a potential robber to give gifts to a bank manager as long as no direct reciprocal action was taken. After all, that would be a bribe and we can’t have that. And if six months later the bank manager left a door unlocked for the robber, thus permitting the taking of funds, then the conduct of the banker and the robber would not be considered connected.
Now, wait just a minute here! Do these ideas for Bank Robbery Reform seem insane? Of course they do. The more important question is why average Americans should expect anything less insane when we have the very people who receive money from lobbyists making the new rules.
Allowing Congress to have the final say on lobbying reform is like shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic and calling it “Iceberg Collision Reform”.
The parallel between Bank Robbery Reform and Lobbyist Reform becomes clear when we recognize two points. First, Congress is the “People’s Bank.” Not only does Congress control the accumulation and disbursement of trillions of dollars of our money each year, but it also controls many of the rules (laws) about what we (including corporations) can and cannot do.
In this respect, firstly, what Congress does with our money, and the manner in which it does it, are vastly more important that just the depositing of money in a bank. We arguably must protect the assets of the “People’s Bank” even more vigorously than we try to protect the assets of our financial institutions.
Secondly, lobbyists might appropriately be termed “bank robbers” in that it is their job to extract from Congress (the “People’s Bank”) concessions in the law and the allocation of great sums of money for their clients by way of grants or tax benefits. Why else would lobbyists spend billions of dollars a year to lobby Congress?
Under the current rules, a lobbyist is permitted to send a member of Congress on lavish trips, make campaign contributions, and host fundraisers. In effect, a lobbyist can peddle influence to a member of Congress as long as no direct reciprocal action can be established.
After all, that would be a bribe and we can’t have that. And if six months later the member of Congress returns the favor, well that would not be considered connected.
The existing rules for lobbyists and members of Congress are ridiculous and insulting to the intelligence of the American people, and the current reform proposals amount to “shuffling chairs” by the ship’s hands.
What we have in the current lobbying system, with all of its associated abuses, amounts to institutionalized corruption. While lobbying may be protected as speech by the Constitution, bribery most certainly is not.
To the average American, transferring vast sums of money to members of Congress with the expectation of future favors amounts to bribery.
The only meaningful Lobbyist Reform would be to eliminate any connection between a lobbyist and money. No gifts. No fundraising. No campaign contributions. And that would apply to the lobbyist, any associate in their organization, and any client they represent. Anything less would amount to “People’s Bank Robbery Reform” and that would be insane!
Editorial Note: We took the title for this piece, "Ain't Nobody in Here But Us Chickens," from a rather famous movie scene involving the late Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry aka Stepin Fetchit. In the scene, he is caught in the chicken coop by a farmer who asks, "Who's in there stealing my chickens," to which Fetchit replies, "Ain't Nobody in Here But Us Chickens."
Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"
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