Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The Current US System of Government is Fatally Flawed and Cannot be Fixed
This is a two-part paper. Part one below addresses our current governmental system and its fatal problems. Part two, in a separate paper will provide some possibilities on how to solve the problems.
If you had to describe the two biggest problems with the way citizens regard their elected officials what would you choose? My choice would be that the citizens no longer believe that their politicians are acting in their behalf and that these same politicians are controlled by big money. How did this happen? Has the system been perverted or hijacked by self-serving politicians? Regrettably, the answer is no. The government we have today is the natural progression of the system that our forefathers created in the 1700s.
So what would the founding fathers that created our government think of our current situation if they were alive today? As much as they may lament the results they cannot say that the current government is not consistent with the intent of the founding fathers. Did the founding fathers create the wrong government? No, they created a government for far less than 50 million people. It's only in the last 100 years or so that population and government has gotten beyond the control of the people or in fact anyone. It is a creation with no master and no accountability. Our country has gotten big (populous) very quickly. Along with population growth has been the phenomenal growth of corporate and personal wealth. Massive population means that citizens are further disconnected from their federal, state and even local politicians. Fairfax County with one million people is larger than many of our nation states. Are the people of that county on a first name basis with any of their politicians even dogcatcher? Seizing the citizen disconnect Big money chooses who our elected officials are and dictate what they do. The people are now the victims of their own government, which they cannot control and cannot change.
The current government is massive and getting larger with no checks and balances. It's a runaway. Some examples. In 2004, the expenditures of the federal government were $2.3 trillion. In the same year, expenditures of state and local governments were $1.45 trillion. The combined value of federal, state, and local expenditures in FY 2004 was $3.75 trillion. Of the 2.3 trillion federal dollars only $695 billion was used for the common good meaning that which is used for everyone's benefit. That's only 30%. The other 2/3s is mandated by law to be redistributed to “special” groups of citizens. These mandates are tied to the runaway population growth and therefore grow without control. Most, like social security are going to go bankrupt, but still must be paid. It’s the law!
All three branches of government are growing unabated. Growth takes two forms, new laws and increased seizure of money. New laws are passed every year, but when is the last time you heard of a law being deleted? They just keep accumulating.
The Executive branch. Just one executive branch department the IRS now manages 5M words of law requiring 232.6B per year. Here is an anecdotal story on HUD, “HUD was well-known in the 1980s for rampant corruption. Catherine Austin Fitts wrote that when she arrived at HUD as head of operations of the FHA program in 1989, it was comparable to a "sewer" for all the mortgage fraud that had occurred during the '80s: "My favorite description of HUD was to come many years later [in 2000] from staff to the Chairman of the Senate HUD appropriation subcommittee — Senator Kit Bond. When asked what was going on at HUD, the Congressional staffer said, 'HUD is being run as a criminal enterprise.'" She wrote:
"After issuing $9 billion in mortgage guarantees, HUD/FHA was to lose something approaching 50% of the value of the portfolio — a level of losses hard to explain with mortal logic. When my staff approached me with a proposal to bail out a mortgage company so they could continue to lose money for us, I asked why we should spend money to lose more money in a way that would harm communities. After a long silence during which 30 staff members intently studied their feet, one brave soul explained to me that the mortgage bank was owned and run by a major Republican donor. Shocked, I said. 'I am a major Republican donor,' and pointing to my presidential cufflinks that were adorning my French cuffs, 'I got a pair of cuff links. You get cuff links. You don’t get $400 million of federal credit to throw down the drain.' My staff looked at me like I was so naive and clueless that there was no point in trying to communicate with me — better to let me learn the hard way."
Congress, which is capped at 100 senators and 454 congressmen, appears to be stagnant but that is an illusion. They currently hire over 40,000 staffers and this number increases each year. Add to that the Library of Congress and the Congressional Accountability Office.
The judicial branch of government has accumulated the same ills as the other two branches. They are aware that there is no accountability to the people or even to the Congress of the states or the nation. They can do whatever they want. This is led to judicial activism meaning they change the laws that Congress makes through corruptive interpretations, which replace the existing law. Take a simple example, the First Amendment to our national Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Seems pretty simple. Even the common citizen can understand this law. But our judges could not leave this alone, so we have progressed from this simple sentence to the separation of church and state and removal of mangers from government property. Does anyone interpret this law in that way?
It’s no wonder that very few citizens still participate in these political processes. Lately the trust in government has all but disappeared and the American people are fed up with big government and big politicians. Perhaps this is why in exit polls from the last election following was said, “Possibly the most arresting single statistic in the exit polls was the finding that a plurality of voters — 40 percent — believe that the next generation of Americans will experience a life “worse than today,” while only 30 percent expect it to be better and 28 percent about the same. This means that voters are discouraged not only about America’s present but also its future. The message of the exit polls is that the country wants its politicians to stop serving their paymasters and start serving the citizens and restore the American dream.
This is not going to happen. That is why the problem is fatal. Politics is a function that is diverging in the wrong direction at an ever-faster rate. Individual Americans are totally disconnected with those who make their laws and control their money. Americans cannot identify with their politicians. Almost none of them can name their county supervisor, state delegate or senator nor can they name their federal congressman and either senator. When people on the street are shown pictures of the top officials in the US government, very few can name anyone. This ignorance creates apathy which allows politicians to ignore the public be responsive to their paymasters, big-money donors.
In presidential elections 55% of eligible voters vote. And this is in a good turnout year. In an off election, one for congressmen and senators 37% is a good turnout. We just had a special election for the congressman of Virginia's first District. Just 13% of eligible voters voted. The American citizen needs a civic lesson. The president makes no laws and cannot independently spend a dime. It is the senators and congressmen who control our lives. We have our electoral concern backwards. Worse when we do vote the overwhelming majority vote on either name recognition, which highly favors the incumbents or they go in and pull the lever for either all Republicans or all Democrats. Few if any voters know where any candidates stand on the issues and vote accordingly. Politicians know this and use Wall Street marketing techniques vice their position on the issues to get elected without saying anything.
Where else does this apathy come from? Another sign of the People's unhappiness with the system is the disapproval rating of our public officials. 64% of the people disapprove of the president's job performance. 66% disapprove of congressional performance. Approval ratings are much lower. These numbers are getting worse each year and are an indicator of public disillusionment. Several additional factors underline the people’s apathy. First, most believe that their vote doesn't count. Almost always true, except Florida in 2000. In most cases none of the candidates are acceptable and therefore one is forced to choose the lesser of evils, even though all are unacceptable. Another factor is that the individual citizen cannot connect to any of his elected officials. Since he is just one of millions, no one cares what he thinks and no one will respond. Just try writing something to the president or your federal officials. If you live in a small county you are lucky if your supervisor will return your call.
Yet the major reason for apathy is we are waking up to the fact that our elected officials respond to big money and can care less about the little people. The numbers bear this out. Let's first talk about those who are trying to get elected today. For the 2008 election, the money collected so for the house is 242 million, the Senate 113 million, the presidential race 420 million. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has collected 1.4 million so far and Senator Dick Durbin has collected 5 million so far. And this is one year before the election! This money pours in foremost from large corporations, then special interest groups like lawyers and next through a variety of loopholes such as PACs, 527, and charities. Additional money pours directly into the two political parties to be parceled out to the politicians, the Democrats getting 195 million so far and the Republicans getting 186 million. Additionally, hundreds of millions are spent on political ads by advocacy groups. Do you think your two dollars is going to buy you anything?
But elections are but just one way for big money to buy politicians. The really big money comes in every year to the incumbents from professional lobbyists to the tune of $2.6 billion per year. That's 4.8 million for each politician each year. Is it any wonder that once a politician gets in office he can stay for life? In 2006, which was a big turnover year between parties, only 6% of the incumbents were defeated. All others retired or quit. With this money a politician can buy votes with what is called pork. For 2007 Congress will spend 29 billion of your money on pet projects most of which go back to same 2.6 B dollar political donors with little or no strings attached. That is a 10 to 1 return on investment. You certainly are not going to see a dime.
Still another reason for apathy is the constant bickering in Washington. There is a complete duplication between the congress and the executive so they are constantly fighting with each other. The Congress and big media blame the president both Democrat and Republican for everything that goes wrong. They never point out that Congress passes all the laws and doles out all the money. Many of these laws are called unfunded mandates. What that means is the executive branch is ordered to do something but given no money to do it. This is been going on so long that fair accountability of the executive branch means absolutely nothing. Yet the blame game continues daily. The media hysterically pounds the average citizen with constant negative news particularly about the executive branch that makes no sense to the average citizen. Congress spends over half of its time investigating the executive branch and the executive branch spends half of its time responding to Congress. This sounds innocent or just annoying except that half the time means half the money. That is 50% of the Congressional and executive budgets and time are wasted pointing fingers and haggling about money.
Where did the enormous size of the United States come from? When the founding fathers created our government our country was tiny. Politicians were people that you knew. The first census was taken in 1790 and we had 3.9 million people in 13 states. The country did not reach 100 million until 1915, or 125 years later. It reached 200 million people in 1970, or only 55 years later. Today in 2007, just 37 years later we have 303 million people. Our system of government just does not scale and is totally overwhelmed by 303 million people.
Where did all these people come from? Today, native-born Americans have a -10% growth rate. That means Native Americans are not replacing themselves. Naturalized immigrants have a positive 35% growth rate. And every year 4- 5 million new immigrants both legal and illegal enter the country. By failing to control population we have guaranteed that our system of government will collapse.
This whopping size has allowed the politicians to tie their allegiance to big money and not the people, with little risk. Big money buys ads, which creates name and face recognition and reelection. In 1859 Abraham Lincoln won his party's nomination by speaking at the Republican convention in May. Afterwards he did no campaigning and gave no speeches. The party machinery in each state and the media were the only way the people ever heard of him. Today presidential candidates spend two years and hundreds of millions of dollars getting their face plastered on the TV as much as possible. Hillary has been running for President for seven years.
There is a big difference between the way Americans feel about local issues as compared to national issues. Just go to a school board meeting or a rezoning decision meeting. The will of the citizens square off equally with big-money interests. You will see yelling and screaming and occasionally fistfights. People are passionate about these issues because they understand them and believe what they say is being heard. However, Americans, traditionally have become too trusting of our state and federal government and politicians because they have no idea what goes on. Herein lies the kernel of the solution. The real power needs to be in the hands of officials who feel that must respond to the people before they respond to big money. I will address how this could work in the next paper.
Labels: Government Collapse