By Arthur H. Gunther III
ANYWHERE BUT WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The ordinary American, an enduring species usually known to senators, congress people and presidents only when on the campaign trail, is suffering. Loss of jobs, homes and hope have brought nervous frustration not felt since the Great Depression.
Democrats talk of job incentives through deficit spending and higher taxes, Republicans of program cuts and lower taxes, but the rhetoric of each side is largely script-written by special interests that in both hidden and obvious ways deal the real mojo. Nothing happens in war and peace, in flush times and not without their say-so. Not in 2011.
Driven by profit goals and sometimes rightist or leftist aims, lobbies care nothing about people, their public relations, if any, to the contrary. Big money can buy big speeches and wonderful feel-good.
Special interests also "grow" government to suit their purposes. Our national, state and local jurisdictions are now so large, complex and bureaucratic that their cost may not measure their performance. Yet government is necessary, especially in today’s security worrisome age, in a time when unregulated greed threatens to destroy the middle class and its hopes, when economic, social, health care and especially old-style American inventiveness are life-and-death issues. The best government is the most simple, as described by A. Lincoln: “... of the people, for the people, by the people.”
If government were more transparent, if special interests were prohibited from giving money to any candidate simply by requiring all campaigns to be publicly funded, then perhaps government would become simpler, more connected to the people, with more principled “Mr. Smiths” articulating the citizenry’s needs and with government acting upon them. Office-holders might actually become beholden to the people beyond stump rhetoric.
Ah, but this is anywhere-but-Washington, D.C. thinking, and it has no special-interest stamp of approval. Too bad the citizenry is not a registered lobby.