Wednesday, April 22, 2015


“Politics is religion for atheists.”
—Comedian Dennis Miller
When we visited Washington D.C. a couple of weeks ago, the tourist destinations on and around the mall were not exactly at their best. Yes, we did get to see the famous cherry blossoms, but the reflecting pool was drained and some of the other sites were similarly undergoing various bits of repair or renovation.

Most notably, the Capitol dome was obscured by covering and scaffolding that made it look like a trauma patient headed for intensive care. By contrast, the White House looked okay but was not that easy to get a good look at because of lush green spring foliage—not to mention serious security that keeps ordinary people at a greater distance than it used to. People in the know told us not to bother with the White House since, after going through the hassle for a tour, you don’t get to see that much anyway.

U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol, earlier this month

It’s tempting to regard the physical appearances of the Capitol and the White House as being symbolic of the institutions they house. On one hand, the executive branch has become rather obscure. The long-term trend toward less transparency has continued unabated during the Obama administration—despite the president’s promises to the contrary when he was a candidate. As for the legislative branch, it is clearly in serious need of repair—not only as a building but also as a functional part of the government.

The congressional dysfunction continues, but it seems to be lessening a bit, with progress actually being made on a few bills—including a “fast track” trade bill—and, not insignificantly, a real budget rather than the spending auto-pilot resolutions that were the order of the day during the reign of former Senate majority leader Harry Reid. There are still fringe factions on the left and right in both houses ready to stall legislation, but the departure of Reid is the single best thing that could have happened in terms of Congress functioning as it was meant to under the Constitution.

We had gone home by the time an off-duty postal worker caused a fuss—and raised anew serious concerns about security—by landing his flying lawn mower on the Capitol grounds. He was carrying letters for members of Congress, urging them to pass campaign finance reform. Whatever his methods, the man was certainly correct that there is way too much money in politics. Unfortunately, his solution just echoes what a few well-intentioned people—and quite a few hypocrites—have been pushing for years. If campaign finance “reform” ever had a chance, it was in 2008 when John McCain, an actual co-author of campaign finance legislation chose to accept public funding and Barack Obama, a self-proclaimed proponent of the reform, did not.

One would reasonably think that that would have been the end of the issue. Yet now we have Hillary Clinton, who stands to break all kinds of records in raising money for her presidential campaign, giving lip service to “reforms” that, given recent Supreme Court decisions, would effectively mean amending the Bill of Rights. Leave it to politicians to solve a problem they created by giving the government more control over how private individuals can raise and spend money in seeking elective office.

Why are there ever increasing amounts of money in politics? The answer is painfully obvious. The federal government is collecting and spending more money than it ever has before. And the federal government is regulating more areas than it ever did before. Under the current president, health care came under the federal umbrella, just as control of the internet is coming under federal jurisdiction. Money that was previously spent by large corporations in the private sector marketplace must now be spent on lobbying and on campaign contributions to seek favor—or avoid disadvantage—from the powers that can tip the scales in the marketplace.

You can pass all the “reform” you want, but rest assured that the money will still find its way to Washington one way or another. That’s because Washington is where, increasingly, the decisions that affect the economy and everything are being made. And, in the process, ordinary citizens, who do not have the resources of a Hillary Clinton, will find compliance with the ever-increasing rules for elective office prohibitive.

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