Long before reading Chris Lehmann’s piece, “Funding Fathers,” in Bookforum (Volume 20, Issue 4, Dec/Jan 2014), I’d had cynical thoughts about what’s happened to our American system of electing legislators. What with the gerrymandering of recent years, the increasing tendency of Americans (and probably most of the rest of the world) to get their “news” chiefly from sources whose political biases they share, and then the Citizens United decision, now beefed up by the recent McCutcheon verdict – why, I wondered sadly, go through all the uproar and distraction of political campaigns? Why not just go directly from Point A to Point B and sell the offices to the highest bidders?
I mean, you think the Tea Party is Populist, that it represents the Common Man and Woman? Lehmann cites a study done by Thomas Ferguson (political science, U-Mass, Boston), Paul Jorgensen (political science, UTexas-PanAmerican), and Jie Chen (statistics, U-Mass, Boston) showing that there is “no meaningful divide” between donors to the Tea Party and the GOP’s usual donors. “The business community and its leased Tea Party mouthpieces share the same basic long-term goals: to continue cutting taxes and to slash away at government expenditures.” I’m sure my readers will realize without having to be told that small indie bookstores are not representative of nor even part of “business community” in this context. In fact, the articles goes on,
It [study results] gets better. Among the biggest bankrollers of Tea Party incumbents in 2012 were commercial banks and their executives—i.e., the very constituencies that, in rhetorical terms, at least, Tea Party leaders profess to despise....
Now ask yourself: Does it make sense to elect to office--or even to sell legislative office to--legislators who don’t believe in government? Who think government is the problem? Who don’t want any regulations or taxes? Who don’t believe in “the common good” at all, except insofar as they like to tell us that benefits to the wealthiest will “trickle down” to lower levels?
So here’s a new modest proposal for the 21st century: Abolish Congress and sell laws to the highest bidders. You want a certain law? Write up your bill, round up your donor base, and if you come up with more scratch than your opponents, you get your law. Simple!
Naturally, a few kinks need to be worked out before the new system can be put into effect. The U.S. Constitution will have to be seriously amended, for starters. But that shouldn’t be an insurmountable obstacle, do you think? I’m sure a majority of the Supreme Court could be –uh, let’s say persuaded. The bigger question is what would be done with all the money raised. It couldn’t go to legislators (or their campaigns), because Congress has been abolished, and it shouldn’t go to government, for Pete’s sake. That wasteful, spendthrift old dinosaur of an antiquated institution? Please!
I've got it! CEO bonuses! But only the already highest-paid would be eligible for these windfalls. After all, aren’t those with the biggest salary and compensation packages worth more than the rest of us put together? Can you doubt that for one moment?