As of October 19, 2016, the US presidential election campaigns of both major candidates have spent a collective $1.3 billion, with an extra $255 million still on hand, all for a job that pays $410,000 per year. I am certain by the time this article runs that the amount raised and spent for the candidates will have swelled in excess of over $1.8 billion. This, of course, does not include the massive amounts poured into congressional and senatorial campaigns (or the third party candidates), or gubernatorial and state-level campaigns.
There is obviously a lot of money in politics, and nearly everyone (except the politicians themselves) voice complaints about it. This amount of money attracts all sorts of corruption and crony deals for large interest groups and corporate interests that do not really represent the citizenry. And, the US is far from unique in large of amounts of money corrupting the political system and its politicians. It isn’t at all a productive sort of system, at least not productive in any positive sense.
There have always been attempts at decreasing the amount of money flowing into campaigns and decreasing the amount of influence special interests can have. There have been limits on contributions and there have been bans on gifts from lobbyists. But, there are always loopholes, and with so much influence available and on the line, the potential for under the table dealings is always present and far too appealing for the special and corporate interest groups. The power available is greater than the risk of dealing under the table. Some of the dealings are even more obvious than under the table. Just pay a politician to speak somewhere and he can be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars legally. As things are today, there really is no stopping corruption and involvement of special interests and corporate interests in politics so long as government has the power that it does.
So, what is the best answer to this problem? New legislation has never stopped it, term limits aren’t going to prevent it, and the problem is too large and common to crack down. 80% of our politicians would probably be doing prison time if they were all successfully prosecuted (maybe not as much an exaggeration as you might think). The only real way to address the issue is to remove the root cause.
The reason so much money flows into corrupting politics is because politics can offer such vast amounts of influence. If you remove the influence, you remove the incentive to put money into it. If government is so small as to be relatively insignificant, then there is no incentive for corporations, lobbyists, or special interest groups to attempt to corrupt things. Like any system that operates on money, when profits are not present, money flowing into it goes away.
Rather than complain about how much influence special and corporate interests have in politics, people should instead recognize the benefit of removing such influences by removing the power of government. Individuals, acting on their own behalf, are a far better influence on economies and political systems than large groups of people acting in the interest of some sort of collective. Want to stop political corruption and abuse of power? Then stop giving government the power that allows it to be corrupt.
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