Angry At The Government? Remember: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

The below article presents some excellent insight regarding the effects of economic realities on the US political system. (Or should I say “lack of a system”?) Not that there aren’t numerous examples of political dysfunction from which one could choose but, from my perspective, two recent incidents really stand out as particularly egregious: (1) Congressional failure to pass The Farm Bill (something is that is normally viewed as a sacred cow (apologies for the bad metaphor there…) and (2) The fact that the House appears unable to do anything remotely sensible about Comprehensive Immigration Reform – despite passage by a bipartisan Senate Majority – (admittedly an imperfect bill, but a major step in the right direction).

In the first instance, the Farm Bill, Republicans were so intent on removing the federal food stamps program – something an overwhelming majority of economists agree is stimulative to the economy AND ethically responsible – that not even the usual lobbying pressure from Big Agribusiness was enough to do the job. Result: we’re the country now known around the world not only for failing to produce a coherent agricultural policy (something that doesn’t exactly help trade relations within the WTO) but as one of the globe’s ultimate manifestations of Scrooge. I’m surprised these jokers didn’t actually wait until Christmas…

On immigration, as I’ve noted previously, House resistance to constructive provisions and a relentless focus on spending zillions to increase the border patrol is downright moronic. First, more border security will have zero effect on the estimated 14 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the shadows – 40% of whom simply overstayed their visas (a trend quickly becoming the most prevalent strategy for illegally obtaining residence in the United States). Second, we have so much to gain here! What amazes me is how anyone who believes in free trade and capitalism could oppose immigration reform. Not only has study after study shown that increased immigration creates jobs by spurring aggregate demand, even if you’re not a Keynesian, you should still be able to recognize the idiocy of spending billions to educate foreign students in areas we desperately need (e.g., engineering and computer science) only to send them back to places like China, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia. I’ll refrain from going on a rant about this, but it isn’t easy…

And so back to the article… The unstated thesis of this insightful piece from Business Insider (link below) is essentially: “YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.” Running for office in this country has become highly unappealing for all but a small subset of Americans who: (a) come from political families; or (b) have personal wealth; or (c) hang out with some extremely rich friends. That’s just the reality of campaigning in today’s America. Then, add in the fact that we pay most politicians vastly less their private sector counterparts. Hence, even if you’re so charismatic and qualified you could win an election through small donations (e.g., a highly educated Iraq War hero who also happens to saved a baby during Hurricane Sandy…), you’re still unlikely to run because the base-pay is just too low to support a family, pay a mortgage, and deal with student loans, etc. Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans under 40 don’t ever consider running for office – exactly the types of people who instead apply their intellect and abilities to far more lucrative private sector positions.

So next time you’re as frustrated as I am by our embarrassing state of political affairs, please remember one of its primary causes: We Americans love to talk a big game when it comes to democracy but just aren’t willing either to reform the system or pay for quality. (Singapore offers a fascinating counter-example of a nation where many politicians make MORE than CEOs… Is it surprising their schools usually rank at around #1 in the world as opposed to America’s shameful #18?)

This isn’t isn’t only reason our bridges collapse, our broadband connections are pathetically slow and our military is being forced to cut critical programs – But unless we somehow find the will to make fundamental changes, don’t expect better governmental performance anytime soon.

[“Could You Afford To Be A Politician,” Business Insider, 7/19/2013]

Frazer Rice © 2024. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy.

Opinions expressed herein are solely those of Frazer Rice, authorized guest-bloggers or comment-posters. No content on this site shall be construed as either investment or legal advice.