The people know what must be done to rescue the great United States of America from stagnation and dysfunction of every sort, beginning in Washington and morphing to the state and local level. There will be little advance to our historic new frontier, to our manifest destiny, scant hope that our children will remain in or join the middle class until money no longer controls Congress and other branches of government. The only way to end billions of dollars in lobbying -- now set at about $3 billion annually, $4.7 million for each senator and House member -- is by a constitutional amendment to require full public financing of congressional and presidential campaigns and to ban special-interest cash, gifts and jobs.
The amendment is necessary to address lobbyists’ predictable, hypocritical cry of free speech denial. That right can and must be satisfied by conducting public hearings, town hall forums and national referendums on issues where great and extensive voice should be heard.
The ordinary American, whom the late and wonderful columnist Ernie Pyle would describe as the really extraordinary citizen because he/she is so common, so ordinary, so concerned with being decent, raising family, doing the job right, is now without representation.
President Obama can proclaim, as he did in a strong and clear State of the Union speech last week, that the country can recover from a near depression by doing this and that, following traditional Democratic ideals, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels can counter that platform with solutions presented in his Republican-conservative response, but neither person will move forward an inch until the special-interest stranglehold withers in both Congress and the White House.
Greatly bolstered by the unwise Supreme Court decision -- the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court -- greed takes no holiday in Washington, and its example is copied in our states. The system is so perverse that even well-intentioned, once idealistic officials must take the cash if they are to wage successful but uber-expensive election battles.
Ask the average American -- Ernie’s people, you, the sort who ties shoelaces every day and shows up for work (or did when you had a job). They know that Congress and the isolated White House are broken institutions, stuck in stalemate, supposedly over ideology but really over meeting lobbyists’ demands. These moneyed people run your government, ever more so, day by day.
We people require a constitutional amendment to end their influence. Not their voice -- listen to that and any other in public hearing. But make these suitors keep their wallets in their pockets. The relatively small amounts required for reasonable campaigning and paid for by the taxpayer will prove money that will save the nation.