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Campaign Finance Reform

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Getting the Money Out of Politics

In today’s American political culture, it can seem difficult to find bi-partisan agreement on much of anything.

But there is one issue gaining broader support, even across political lines. More and more Americans are concerned about the amount of money flowing into politics.

In the presidential election of 2016, the leading candidates spent a combined total of nearly $1.2 billion. And that is just the race for president. In both the 2012 and 2016 elections, total campaign spending in the main two political parties has ranged from $6.5 billion to $7 billion.

That is enough money to feed every American living below the poverty line for 2 weeks. It is enough to pay the tuition for 300,000 students to graduate from college. It would require 3500 average Americans, all working a full 40 year career to produce that much money.

Could we put those resources to a more productive use? And if so, why don’t we?

Over the years, various methods have been proposed or attempted to bring about campaign finance reform, but these have been no more effective than trying to stop the tide with a broom.

The economic forces in play seem nearly as powerful as the weight of the ocean. Apparently, there is no shortage of people willing to donate the large sums of money necessary to get their favorite candidates elected.

Why do they do it? And is there any way we can redirect our time and energy to more important priorities?

The real answer to this problem is obvious yet, it often evades us:

If you want to get the money out of politics, just get the money out of government.

This deceptively simple statement is worth reading over again, until it’s full impact really sinks in.

People are willing to spend so much money winning political office, simply because it is so incredibly profitable to be in control of the levers of government power. We can’t change that simple fact, no matter how many campaign finance laws we may enact.

In 2016, Federal spending in the United States is expected to be nearly $4 Trillion. That is over $10,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It is enough to pay for the healthcare needs of every American. And those who are in power, get to decide how and where all that money will be spent.

Every business, lining up to get its piece of the pie, has a vested interest in keeping power in the hands of its own closest allies. The result is a corruption of the system that is not in the best interests of the American people.

When the United States was originally founded, most domestic problems were dealt with at state and local levels. The role of the federal government was largely limited to providing the states with a unified foreign policy and a strong national defense. This is the “republic” form of government guaranteed by the Constitution.

The American founders did not envision a government populated by career politicians whose primary objective would be to secure “their share” of a massive federal budget. Rather, patriots like George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson served their country at great personal sacrifice. Then, they voluntarily laid down power to return to their lives in the private sector.

But as the scope and size of the federal government has grown, the resulting concentration of money and power has become irresistible to some of the worst among us. Today, many of our elected officials have become very wealthy by exploiting their public offices. Some of the richest communities in the country are now those surrounding Washington DC.

As more power and money become concentrated at the federal level, we should not be surprised that people are willing to spend more and more money in order to control it. Likewise, we can not expect to see a turn toward greater integrity in the political process until we find a way to de-centralize federal power so it is not such a rich target for misuse and corruption.

There are many important roles to be performed in a properly functioning civil society. These include educating our children, lifting the poor, protecting the innocent, and caring for the needy. Historically, we have delegated most of these tasks to a centralized government.

But it is worth asking ourselves: How has this approach worked out so far? Are our children better educated? Are there fewer poor and hungry? Have we reduced violence, crime or abuse?

What if we could instead try addressing our social problems in a more diverse and distributed way? Could we focus our efforts where they are needed most, and keep precious resources out of the hands of those who only serve their own selfish interests?

This is how civil society works when it is built on the principles of authentic choice and accountability. For more information, check out: Got Choices, The Book!