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October 16, 2012
Reforming the Leviathan state
If the excesses of political Washington are to be corrected, the leviathan state contained and good governance restored, the temptations of officeholders to place personal interest over public service and the competing claims of special interests must be eliminated.
Pay-to-play has become routine in government, however, most who complain about big money in the political process cite only a need to ban it, while overlooking the systemic governmental schemes which attract it.
There will always be money in politics, but political and financial self-interests can be erased by guaranteeing transparency and removing incentives to offer or solicit votes, cash and favors. America doesn't need term limits. Abolishing legislative pensions, limiting the perks of office and eliminating officeholders' waivers to US law would yield similar results.
The massive United States Code, a consolidation of the laws of the United States, is embedded with deals for special interests, politically-favored groups and constituencies. The maddeningly complex, thoroughly-corrupt US Tax Code counts thousands of pages of loopholes, credits and favors for friends, political supporters and generous special interests.
Taxation is meant to raise government revenue, laws and regulations to serve the common public interest, not to attract campaign contributions, repay political favors or bribe voters with their own money. American laws, regulations and taxes, immoral legacies of political, social and economic engineering run amok, are exploited by incumbents to extract campaign funds and votes from the interests affected or likely to be affected by them.
Congress -- all legislatures -- must write bills in standard, readable English and prohibit voting on any bill which has not been posted online in searchable format for a week or more. At a minimum, legislators must provide proof of having read all bills upon which they vote. Preferably, all bills should be read aloud to a quorum in each house, and legislators absent from the reading denied a vote. Obamacare's 2700 pages wouldn't have survived a reading, much less have passed either house.
Legislative rules should be changed to allow members to force up-or-down recorded votes on sweetheart deals embedded in bills. That won't eliminate deal-making in Congress, but it will slow down the process, open more details for public scrutiny and disclose special interests.
To further discourage deal-making, no bill should incorporate matters involving more than one section of the United States Code. Omnibus legislation allows bill sponsors to overcome the competing interests of legislators to pass bills, individual elements of which would not succeed on their merits: e.g., including food stamps with farm subsidies attracts the votes of urban legislators for the Farm Bill.
Congress should abolish earmarks, many of which have been secured for campaign contributors.
The federal revenue system should use a simpler, flatter tax code which, while removing loopholes, subsidies and credits, lowers rates across the board and increases the percentage of Americans paying their fair share of income taxes. A simpler code would reduce the cost of tax compliance for businesses and families, while removing incentives for special interests to lobby Congress and underwrite campaigns.
One of government's greatest perversions occurs in the cozy relationship of politicians and labor unions. Big Labor, especially its public employee union component, is, by far, the most powerful, most generous lobby in America. Allowing labor bargaining units to fund the politicians who authorize their pay and benefits is legalized bribery. To eliminate this corruption, America should prohibit public employee union money in politics or, preferably, reinstate the FDR-inspired pre-1960s prohibition of public employees' unions.
If legislators are made accountable to the same laws and regulations governing other citizens, their pensions cancelled, the legislative process cleansed, the tax code simplified, labor bribery outlawed, and former federal officeholders prohibited from lobbying on behalf of third parties, America can begin to break the nexus of campaign contributions and government spending, purge most "dirty" money from government and return public service to Washington.
Then, rather than adding to it, a government of honorable public servants, undistracted by special interest cash, will have time and incentive to correct the mess already existing in the United States Code.
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