Their pants are on fire, and we should put them out

    Memo to any candidate running for any office: If you run another television commercial about your political campaign, I will mute it or turn the channel.

    Memo to shadowy special interest groups: If you run another television commercial about a political campaign, I will mute it or turn the channel. In fact, I might even turn my TV off. Heck, if I didn’t like my HD TV so much, I’d even throw a brick at it.

    I dare say I speak for millions of other Americans on this one. We’re sick of the whole process.

    We’re sick of the half-truths. We’re sick of the “pants on fire” lies. We’re even sick of the few ads that tell the truth.

    The recent U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that virtually opened the floodgates once and for all for special interest money to pour into the system with virtually no limits and no accountability has finally brought us to this tipping point.

    People, our democracy is broken.

    For those who view the U.S. Constitution as sacred and think the Founding Fathers were saints, that all sounds well and good. However, the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen how a democracy could or should work in the 21st century. They could not have imagined the television, much less the Internet. They could not have envisioned political action committees (PACs).

    By the way, George Washington warned that formation of any political parties would be disastrous for the American democracy.

    Fast forward to today. Our democracy is for sale. And with no more restrictions on cash flow, groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are buying.

    R. Bruce Josten, the executive vice president of government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, defended his organization this week, saying the group does not run ads for or against candidates, but rather uses money to promote issues important to them.

    Sir, your pants are on fire. And they might even be full.

    On the other side, labor unions no doubt bought their shares of elections over the years. An argument could be made that labor unions were an effective counterweight against large corporate interests. However, the diminishing membership, dues and impact of the labor unions make that an archaic claim. It’s not even close.

    For those who say it’s a free speech issue, you are right. The free speech of hundreds of millions of people – on the left and the right – and millions of small businesses are being drowned out by large donations from big hitters, some of whom are overseas.

    When you stop and think about it, if someone with an agenda gave money to an alderman, a mayor, a county supervisor, a county executive, a congressman, a senator or a president in office and expected favorable government treatment in return, it would be immoral and illegal.

    So, why do we allow it to happen in elections?

    Think about this: special interests are spending more on the elections for governor and senator in Wisconsin than the candidates’ campaigns themselves. In other words, the candidates do not even control the messages anymore!

    It is time to rethink our entire democratic system and do away with all of the money, from the left and the right. I’m Steve Jagler, and I approved this message.

     

    Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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