Until we get the nation pointed in the right direction, what we do on the local level will never get things back on the right track toward correcting the financial mess we currently find ourselves.
Everyone running for the top job in Washington claims to be a leader, including President Obama, who promised major changes after he was elected. True leaders break with tradition and introduce new methods to solve the nation’s problems.
The first major problem I believe this country faces is a money problem. I’m referring to the money problem that is ultimately at the root of many of the other ones we face as a nation, and while it starts with the election of the commander in chief, it also pertains to every elected official ... federal, state and local.
Over this past weekend, presidential candidates released their recent financial reports. At this point in the election maze, it’s all about the money, not votes, as the votes follow the money. While President Obama hopes to raise a billion dollars, he has raised more than $70 million so far. In contrast, the Republican candidates have collectively raised $52.6 million, with Perry at $17 million, Romney at $14 million, Paul at $8.2 million, Bachman at $3.9 million and Cain at $2.8 million.
Raising that much campaign money is at the very root of what ails our political system. First of all, people, companies or “Special Interests Groups” don’t give money away without expecting a return on their investment. What they are bargaining for is access. With access comes influence, and with influence the person we’ve elected to address our problems now has strings attached, giving those interest groups greater pull over the president than we could ever muster with our votes. Secondly, the largest use of those funds raised is for advertising to attack the other candidates.
According to Americans for Campaign Reform, less than one percent of Americans — voters — fund campaigns, and more money is raised in Washington, D.C. than in 32 states combined. Private contributions distort budgetary priorities and help sustain a multi-billion-dollar system of special tax breaks and government spending programs that benefit a few while costing the taxpayers at large. So long as special interest contributors continue to enjoy outsized influence in Washington, politicians will be unable to enact wholesale deficit reduction in the public interest.
This may not be popular with my media brethren, but until we eliminate political advertising from the process, thus removing the need to raise massive amounts of money, we will not be able to rein in the political influence that comes from special interest campaign contributions. And we will never get candidates to speak candidly about the issues.
Removing the campaign dollars that get funneled into television, newspaper and Internet advertising is one of the key influencers that must come to a stop.
What news organizations should do is provide forums, debates and interviews for all the candidates to communicate equally across the board. Advertising can then be sold directly from the news medium to support such featured events.
This way, we level the playing field for all candidates. The electorate would be forced to watch, read, and listen to the candidates without the bombardment of attack ads. By removing the special interest influence, elected officials can tackle the jobs we sent them to do without the conflict of interest the current system forces on those we elect.
Campaign reform is a must. Otherwise, we’ll continue to allow these elections to be bought by the highest bidder, and our lives will be spent in the interest of special interests. The special interest groups currently with the greatest pull are identified in the following categories agriculture, energy, defense, labor and healthcare and they include programs and policies that are favored by both parties. Without serious campaign reform does it really matter who we put into office?
Real change can’t come about until the top or the bottom gets serious about addressing these needed reforms.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.