American Consequences - October 2017

Deform No. 1: CAMPAIGN SPENDING LIMITS (And Its Evil Twin, ‘Publicly Funded Elections’) This is a bad kind of reform, and calls for it are a waste of bad breath. Stricter campaign spending limits simply won’t happen. First, as it were, there’s the First Amendment – protecting campaign free speech like Cerberus the giant three-headed dog guarding the gates of Hades. Attempt any real limitation of that campaign free speech and one of Cerberus’s three heads – the executive, the legislative, or the judicial – will bite your ass. Second, there is a law of physics. As the journalist Jonathan Alter, a self-confessed liberal/progressive, put it in a 1997 article in Newsweek , “Money in politics is like water running downhill: it will always find its way, even with a constitutional amendment.” And what if we did manage to strictly limit campaign spending, including spending by issue-oriented groups supposedly not endorsing a specific candidate? Then the loudest cheapskate candidate with the dumbest, meanest slogan would win. “Soak the Rich!” With campaign financing, as with so many distasteful aspects of politics and government, the best we can hope for is a bit of transparency in the disgusting soup. If some candidate is getting billions of dollars from “The Inter-Galactic Association of People Who Have Been Abducted by Aliens,” I, for one, would like to know.

Deform No. 2: BALANCED BUDGETS, SPENDING FREEZES, DEBT CAPS, ETC. No law concerning such things will ever be written without some provision for nullification during a “National Emergency.” And, within days of the law’s passage, we’ll have a “National Emergency.” (The national emergency will probably be something on the order of discovery of invasive Asian carp in Lake Michigan.) The government controls the supply of the money government spends. Government has too many ways to replenish its supply of spending money – taxing, borrowing, and printing more of the stuff. As for stopping the government from spending that money, see the Jonathan Alter quote to the left. Deform No. 3: TERM LIMITS Yes, the career politician is a problem. And so is every other kind of politician. More so because politicians – especially at the municipal and House levels – tend to be elected by pressure groups that dominate their constituencies. If the pressure group elects Clarabell and Clarabell limits out, the pressure group will elect Bozo. And when Bozo can’t run anymore, Pennywise from It will be ushered into political office. “Outsider” candidates, with no political experience, aren’t a perfect answer, either. (We’ve got one now, in very high political office.) Do you want a dog that knows where the bones are buried? Or do you want a dog that digs up the whole yard?

The career politician is a problem. And so is every other kind of politician.

98 | October 2017

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