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October 22, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Congress has no desire to change

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Do Americans fail to understand that being a senator or House member is a great career and that more than 90 percent of the members want to make “serving” a career?

Do Americans fail to understand that the money and support needed to keep getting re-elected is only available from powerful interests with lobbyists who are looking to advantage themselves by getting Congress to pass legislation favorable to them?

Do Americans fail to understand that Republicans and Democrats in Congress participate in, support and foster this corrupt system and have zero inclination to change it?

And finally, do Americans not understand that most of what they hate about the unfairness, the wealth transfer, the printing of money, the deficit, the debt and this very slow economy is the direct result of what both parties do in Congress?

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  1. Dr. Ben Carson who spoke at the national prayer breakfast, and impressed those in attendance with his refreshing, pointed and sensible insights, although they sharply differed from the president's, who was also seated at the head table and was forced to listen, states in his book America the Beautiful, that special interest groups are the fourth branch of Government,were never anticipated by the Founders,and threaten and cause immense harm to the operation of our government. Carson is correct on this point as is Michael's criticism above. The question is how will it be dealt with to eradicate it in light of its now institutional status?

  2. I can always depend on someone to bring up the argument against term limits and public financing of campaigns, as Future did. The argument is that they would reduce free speech and voting rights. I agree that this argument has merit.

    Here is the problem. When 'groups' of Americans are allowed to organize to make their voices better heard but are ALSO allowed to raise money in large amounts and this money is the majority of the money required for members of Congress to be elected and re-elected, the money corrupts the operation of Congress.

    I don't advocate not allowing Americans to form groups to better make heard their point of view. I do advocate funding Congressional campaigns 'exclusively' and 'equally' via public money only.

    Both Conservatives and Progressives, respectively, seem to be OK with 'groups' using money to basically buy the votes of members of Congress with money needed for campaigns, as long as the 'result' is something they agree with.

    The election system we have in place, flooded with and corrupted by virtually unlimited money IS NOT what our Founders had in mind when they wrote the Constitution of the United States of America. If the ends justify the means, then we don't have freedom, and we don't have democracy. We have a country that is run by powerful interests with money and lobbyists. We may as well live under a dictatorship if we are willing to accept the system as it is.

    Michael

  3. Thank you HoustonJac. Dr. Carson, who is much more eloquent that I am, put the problem in concise terms....fourth branch of government. I will only add this. A problem cannot be addressed until it is recognized. Both Conservatives and Progressives only see what is happening as a 'problem', when the 'corruption' does not result in what they want. That attitude must change.

    Michael

  4. The letter states the obvious, and most folks are aware of what the letter addresses. The Supreme Court is directly responsible for the open floodgates of private and anonymous funding of political campaigns, and the feckless attempts of recently formed organizations to jump on the bandwagon and have their cake and eat it too. Max Baucus said it all when he said there is room to drive a truck through the loopholes available to these organizations requesting tax exemption under the guise of promoting social welfare. In fact they are all politically motivated and are nothing less than money laundering middle men for those who would buy the form of government they want. Until the IRS has the exact wording required to deny tax exemptions to political groups posing as philanthropic groups, nothing will change. The word currently used in the guidelines the IRS operates under is PRIMARILY, which can mean anything. The word that will give the IRS the authority to deny these bogus outfits their tax exemption is EXCLUSIVELY. That means you must, in fact, be what you say you are, and not a front for the Koch brothers and their totally political agenda. As we all know, the groups squealing about the mean old IRS picking on them ALL got their tax exempt status. Change the word PRIMARILY TO EXCLUSIVELY; the current tempest in a teapot will DISAPPEAR. And while we're at it OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED; a bad law that was upheld by a conservative leaning Supreme Court.

  5. Gary,

    I agree about citizens united, but the way you write, one would think none of what I talk about existed before citizens united and everything would be fine if citizens united was overturned. Surely, you don't believe that, do you?

    Michael

  6. Imagine 2/3 of each house of Congress passing a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on themselves. Now imagine 2/3 of each house of Congress passing a Constitutional Amendment to provide for only public financing of political campaigns. Finally, imagine these are ratified by three fourths (37) of the state legislatures.

    John Lennon said it best:

    you may say
    I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
    I hope some day you'll join us
    And the world will be as one

  7. Michael,

    For brevity's sake I left that part out of my comment. Of course I am aware of our crooked political system being awash in special interest groups and out of control political money. You point out, correctly, that change is needed. Unfortunately, it won't occur by Congress doing the right thing. They are the chief benefactors of the current system. Cheers!

    Gary

  8. When I read Michael's comments and the many responses I am reminded of days in the dorm room arguing esoteric points of philosophy. The energy expended could be put to actual productive use. There are no "special interests" other than those opposed to my point of view. Those who agree with me are right and those who don't are wrong. My point of view is not representative of any "special interest", it is proudly "common sense" and because it is "common sense" only the "special interests" are opposed. Having lived in a variety of countries with their particular political system I think I'll stick with what we have here, warts and all. Personally I'd like to see a unicameral parliamentary system but I recognize that will not happen in the US.

  9. The voters who like President Obama blame Congress. The voters who don't, blame the President. Both are culpable. And so are the American people who rate Congress with a 9 percent approval and vote for incumbents 90 percent of the time. The U.S. is a huge diverse entity of 3 basic political philosophies: Progressive, conservative and libertarian. Most of time these groups talk over each other and try to prove the others, not there's, are wrong and stupid. The President is the CEO, Congress is the board of directors and the people are the shareholders. They all have a vital roll to play and when any doesn't, the country as a whole suffers.

    Carmine D

  10. It's a 'no brainer' that Congress isn't going to enact term limits and public financing on their own. They also are not going to give up the right to increase their own salaries any time they want. DUH!

    That fact in no way invalidates the 'truth' about what is right. Some seem to think I write what I write in the 'hope' that Congress will do things not in their interests. I am too pragmatic and logical for that. The only way the 'right' things will even be done by Congress is 'if' enough of the American public fully understands the issue and wants something done. The chances of that are also slim, but they are better than me convincing Congress to make the changes.

    Very simply, that's why I make the point.

    Michael

  11. Until voters quit looking for an "R" or "D" after a candidates name and do some research on his/her beliefs, qualifications & experience, term limits are the answer. For Lind's assertion it's "the Supreme Court's fault," that's baloney. We have a Constitution and it gives even the "rich" the right of free speech. Apparently, Lind would happily ration free speech to the parasitic class. Me? I'd prefer to limit it and voting rights to only those with actual "skin" in the game: property owners, tax payers and legal citizens of this country. As it is, we have far to many parasites voting themselves "goodies" from a treasury they contribute little or nothing to. But I'll take the status quo over any attempt to limit anyones Constitutional rights over allowing the Commie-lites to decide who gets to speak and who does not!

  12. Jeff (through 2 letters) says a lot but doesn't mention what really matters. Without the money provided by powerful interest groups with lobbyists, people cannot be elected to Congress or be re-elected. Combine that with self interest and human nature and you have .... corruption.

    If anyone wants to see how our wonderful system works, watch the John McCain sponsored bill on allowing consumers to buy individual channels (rather than just bundles of 100 or more channels) from our cable or satellite company. Unless a miracle happens, this bill will not become law. Why?

    Because Cox cable, Directv and a host of other companies will send their lobbyists to Congress and using the money and support they command, let members know they don't want this legislation because it might hurt their bottom line. Not said, but understood by every member, is that if you don't toe the line, your re-election will be difficult, if not impossible. Along with Directv, Cox and others, will be lobbyists from Disney, NBC Universal and many others, who provide the 'content' for not only the shows on the average 18 channels most of us do watch, but also on the 82 channels we have to buy but don't watch because the 'content' is not interesting to most viewers.

    THIS is the system we have in place now due to how we finance campaigns and although McCain's bill is not important in the large scheme of things, THIS same system is in play in EVERY VERY IMPORTANT issue that comes before Congress.

    Michael

  13. Michael:

    I favor McCain's cable proposal. I opine most Americans will too. The cable companies will oppose it but will have to cave if subscribers want it.

    Carmine D

  14. Jeff,

    No it isn't. Where is the provider that offers consumers the choice to pick which channels they want? Why isn't there such a provider? The answer to that question is the same as why McCain's bill will not pass.

    The game is rigged Jeff. You don't want to believe it because it doesn't conform to your belief that Republicans are the problem and Democrats are the solution. There is a Mickey Mouse belief system here but I'll let the readers decide who holds it.

    Michael

  15. "The airwaves are owned by Americans, not Comcast, Verizon, Century Link, Cox, Sprint, etc."

    You would be correct, and Michael and I wrong, if Americans didn't pay dearly to the cable and satellite companies for many years for the cable airwaves.

    Carmine D

  16. In the comment section of a letter he wrote condemning and attacking "corrupt" "career politicians," Mike cites the brave, anti-lobbyist legislation of...

    JOHN MCCAIN, who has been in elected office nearly 30 years.

    Um...

  17. Jeff,

    I support free markets, when they are free. Why do you suppose there isn't a cable and satellite provider providing something different that what is provided by the players we have? For the answer, see my letter of today and my responses to the comments.

    It isn't rocket science. The system we have is corrupted by money in campaigns and you cannot fix that with more Democrats.... or Republicans.

    I can't do much for people that refuse to see the obvious.

    Michael

  18. "On my rabbit ears we get PBS, and that is it. We get along fine without those commercials and other than Dinosaur train and The Cat in the Hat twice a week the TV grows dust."

    "and me free marketing it"

    Free marketing is not rabbit ears and TV network channels. Just wait until your 2 1/2 year old daughter is in school and talking with her friends and classmates about TV viewing. Then tell Michael and I how your "free marketing" TV viewing works.

    Carmine D

  19. Kevin,

    I know my letters get old because I hammer the same things over and over again. But repetition is necessary because there are people like you, who, instead of debating the issue, try very hard to pull the discussion in a different direction.

    I'd term limit McCain and every other long standing member in Congress tomorrow if I could. I simply used him as an example to illustrate my point, but of course you know that... but don't care. Your mission is to obscure. How sad...

    Michael

  20. I was pointing out that the example you used contradicts your stated case, Mike.

    But we do agree: this letter is repetitive.

  21. Future,

    I understand that many people do not agree with the solutions I propose. However, the alternatives, as seen from this group of letter writers seem to be:

    Elect more Republicans. That will fix what's wrong.

    Elect more Democrats. That will fix what's wrong.

    Elect better people to Congress, ones that will do what is right for the country, even though they know doing so will lead to their defeat in the next election.

    The people proposing the solutions above seem pretty sure they have the correct solution and often attack those that do not agree.

    And you tell me I am too self important and most people don't agree with me.

    OH MY....

    Michael

  22. Kevin,

    Again, no it doesn't. I did not endorse McCain or the the fact that he's been a Senator forever. I just used his proposal as an example. I could have used other members who have also proposed legislation that has no chance to pass because powerful interests don't favor it.

    The argument you are making is foolish, so please stop.

    Michael

  23. Antigov,

    Yes, Conservatives believe that everything I write about is the fault of the Democrats, Progressives and President Obama. Progressives feel that everything I write about is the fault of Conservatives, the Tea Party and former President Bush.

    In my opinion, both beliefs are staggeringly misguided. And that is why we have most of the problems we have.

    Michael

  24. Michael,

    I tend to agree with you recognizing that our senators and House members serve for too long. I really don't believe that is the root of our problems though. Polariziation in the culprit. Our Congress is completely dysfunctional. I can remember Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority pulling the GOP to the right. Since then Republicans have gone further right by attempting to play to the base of their party. When Newt Gingrich released "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" he only pushed politics further right using words decribing his opposition as the enemy. The Clinton administration was only an indication as to what would come with congressional members on the right not willing to negotiate or compromise which ended by shutting down our government. The entrance of the Tea Party has pulled the GOP so far right that Republicans are openly commenting about the "party of stupid" and "they should close down for repairs." Prior to Democrats taking control in 2007 filibusters weren't abused by either party. At their peak of use filibusters hit 80 for both parties. That was until 2007 when the GOP abused the system to death ... 139 filibusters in 2007/2008 ... 137 in 2009/2010 ... 104 in 2011/2012.

    Granted, many of you may not like Democrats or progressives but that doesn't mean our elected officials should act like spoiled brats, take their ball, glove, bat and go home because they lost the game. As long as the "party of stupid" rails about immigrants, a fictitious welfare system, guns, other religions, evolution, gays, education, unions, etc., etc., etc., they will not win elections on a national level. They are left with cheating by creating new voter laws because the GOP has a self defeating agenda born out of stubborness. Just a few of the unrealistic comments on this page is an insight as to where the GOP is headed.

  25. Antigov,

    You can blame Reagan and trickle down all you want but the fact remains that there are powerful interests with lobbyists in this country that in large party dictate policy to Congress using the power of money and support in Congressional campaigns.

    Progressive, Conservative, Trickle Down, Re-distribution... whatever name you want to give... unless we change our Congressional campaign funding system, the big, wealthy powerful interests will run Congress and the rest of us will get screwed.

    Michael

  26. Vernos,

    Your letter sounds like antigov and so many others on the right and the left. Yes, serving too long is a problem but the financing of Congressional Campaigns is much more important.

    I don't make much progress with either side. Conservatives see what does get done in Congress and don't like what they see and blame Progressives and President Obama. Progressives see the uncooperative House and blame everything on the House and the Tea Party.

    To me, the important issue is much larger than that restricted view. All legislation passed by Congress is molded by powerful interests with money and lobbyists. Most people think the reason the ACA is not what was intended or promised is because the Republicans fought it and there is some truth in that. However, most of the reason is because as the ACA was drafted in Congress, the powerful interests that would be affected by this legislation were actually driving the legislation the way they wanted it, to advantage themselves and protect their positions. The reason they are so successful in doing this with the ACA and all other legislation is because they hold the purse strings for the funding of Congressional elections and the 2 parties themselves.

    Do you really believe the many intelligent members in both Houses of Congress thought that the ACA was great legislation? They didn't but they knew that what was cobbled together was the best that could be gotten given the influence of these powerful interests.

    There is a reason that Congress approval rating is about 9 %. The reason is that they have a tough time getting much done, but even more importantly, the public is roundly dissatisfied with the results of the legislation and tax policy they do pass.

    Congress has satisfied customers... they are the powerful interests who continue to successfully buy advantage with funding for Congressional campaigns. That has little to do with the Tea Party, Progressives or anything else that is so talked about by our letter writers here and the general public.

    Michael

  27. Mike, let's recap:

    You wrote in your letter:

    "Do Americans fail to understand that the money and support needed to keep getting re-elected is only available from powerful interests with lobbyists who are looking to advantage themselves by getting Congress to pass legislation favorable to them?"

    Right? Career politicians are slaves to "powerful interests with lobbyists who are looking to advantage themselves by getting Congress to pass legislation favorable to them."

    And then you cite a politician who broke free of the chains that you claim entrap him into the system.

    McCain's bill should not exist in the world you have posited.

    A better example would be of the politicians who go to bat FOR the cable/satellite companies themselves in exchange for campaign contributions, not the sole career politician who is fighting them.

    But by citing McCain, you actually cite an individual who doesn't follow your own narrative:

    "Several of McCain's top fund-raisers, for example, lobby for the telecommunications industry, which regularly does business before the Senate Commerce Committee, where McCain is a senior member and once served as chairman."

    "Kirk Blalock, of the lobbying firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, leads McCain's young professional group and has raised more than $250,000 for him. Blalock's clients include Sprint Nextel and Viacom."

    "Kyle McSlarrow, chief of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying arm of the U.S. cable television industry, has raised more than $100,000 for McCain. He and others in the industry recently butted heads with McCain over a proposal that would allow customers to pick and choose which channels they receive."

    I'm not debating the letter because most Americans, myself included, generally agree with some of what you've written, and because you've carved out such a generic "Congress is bad, we have to do something but don't look to me for leadership" position that it's not worth anyone's time debating.

    It would be like inviting a "debate" on how racism is bad. It is. We know.

    Unfortunately, you would rather spin your wheels and complain than act and guide the change... as would most Americans. In the end, you just complain like everyone else.

  28. Jeff and Kevin,

    Where to start? You two read what I write and then draw conclusions that just don't match what I've written.

    'He just complains' you say. No, I advocate changing the campaign finance structure for Congressional elections and enacting term limits. That is not 'just complaining'.

    You say McCain shouldn't even be able to propose legislation contrary to the cable, satellite and content provider industries if the situation was as bad as I indicate. No, members can and do propose legislation not liked by powerful interests. But when the legislation exits the Congressional meat grinder (after it is lobbied to death), if it exits, it either actually benefits the powerful interests or is at least neutered.

    Jeff asks 'which one will set up structural change that does not end up making gramma and grampa eat cat food?' The correct answer: Neither if powerful interests continue to buy their way in Congress.

    It amazes me how the simpleminded solution of 'just support one of the parties' is the solution of choice for so many.

    Michael

  29. "I advocate changing the campaign finance structure for Congressional elections and enacting term limits. That is not 'just complaining'."

    "Newspaper website comments are going to change the world!" said no one at all. Please. Commenting here is the definition of "the least you can do."

    You noted that you were repeating yourself, which proves that the advocacy you've expressed hasn't really changed the status quo. The question becomes: what will do you do to actually change things?

    How many more comments or letters to the editor repeating yourself will it take? It obviously isn't working, Mike.

    "You two read what I write and then draw conclusions that just don't match what I've written."

    No, you're referencing individuals who disprove your central thesis. McCain has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the very lobbyists who would want to see his bill die. Per your original assertion, McCain can only get elected by doing the bidding of his campaign donors.

    I didn't make McCain the example. You did. Too bad you can't seem to explain why McCain would bother with this bill if his donors didn't approve...

  30. Ressince73 (Gary Lind) (4:36 a.m.): Gary: Ignore IRS guidelines, read the actual law: 501(c)(4), for example, reads " Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes." Note the word EXCLUSIVELY! The scandal should actually be about how the IRS managed to change the very clear word "exclusively" to the murky word "primarily" in its regulations!

    See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/2...

    Section 501(c)(3) also reads "exclusively" which the IRS managed to change to "primarily" in its regulations.

  31. Kevin,

    I already explained how McCain was able to sponsor this bill, which some of his supporters would not like, in my 2:33 PM post, but you ignored what I said, not surprisingly.

    I'm sure we will clash again. Have a good evening.

    Michael

  32. I find some of the letters by other posters interesting. They point out that they find my letters boring and uninteresting, yet don't complain about the letters that constantly tell us all to 'vote Democrat' or 'vote Republican' or 'live better, work union' I guess if you agree with what is said, it isn't boring, no matter how many times it is said. Oh well. I have no idea what criteria the Sun uses in deciding to publish my letters. Here is what I do know:

    Since I own a business and have contact with members of the general public each day, I have had many, many people say to me that they appreciate and look forward to reading my letters to the editor. Not all agree with me but many do.

    We all tend to live in bubbles of our own making. My suggestion to those that routinely attack me is this: Realize that 'your world', the one where everyone agrees with you and everyone else is just an idiot, is not the only world out there. There are many people who disagree with me but there are also more people that agree with what I say than my attackers would like to believe.

    Michael

  33. Bradley,

    I am not a one man show. I am no more and no less important than anyone else that writes in to the newspaper.

    When I was a young man, I had a bad habit of telling everyone else how to live their lives... as I saw it, in an effort to help them. Eventually, this led a friend of mine to tell me to stop doing that to him or we would not be friends. I did stop doing it, to him and others. However, with some of you at least, I seem to be having the same effect with what I write. Make no mistake, I think I am right in what I write about. However, I do have respect for your opinion and that of others. If you have any other perception, it is inaccurate. I do not name call. I do not demean others. I simply write what I believe to be the truth. It's my truth. I would like others to believe it too, but they are under no obligation to do so.

    I have no ax to grind against those that are Democrat party supporters nor those that are Republican supporters.

    This is my overall philosophy, which makes it difficult for me to move to the Progressive side and also difficult to remain on the Conservative side. I understand what Capitalism is (the good and the bad) and I know that in a Capitalist system, there are going to be people that do very well and people that do very poorly and also those in between. When I listen to many Progressives and what many, but not all of them appear to believe in and want, I hear things that I do not believe will ever be possible under a Capitalist system. Many Progressives simply cannot accept the unfairness of outcomes in a Capitalist system. Not only do they want equal opportunities, they want roughly equal outcomes. To make that a reality, our system cannot be Capitalist. It must be changed to some other system. There are some Progressives that will admit that is what they want.

    I and many others do not want that. I want a Capitalist system, but I want it to be more fair than it is, not in outcomes, but in opportunity. I want a social safety net but I want one where the money spent is monitored and undeserving people are kept out. I want the same accountability for the military and all other government spending. (to be continued)

    Michael

  34. Bradley (to continue),

    I'll only stop writing what I believe if I choose to do so. People can stop reading and that is their choice. Perhaps the SUN will take your advice and stop publishing my letters, but I doubt it. I believe the people that make the decision on what letters to publish have changed over time, but it seems that my letters as well as those of the very Progressive letter writers keep getting published.

    There is a truth that I think many people on the Progressive side don't fully appreciate. There are millions of Americans out there that never say a word publicly, but they trend conservative and traditional (many of them were attracted to the TEA Party overall message). They are quiet for now but could be a force to be reckoned with if the country moves too far to the Progressive side.

    Michael

  35. Bradley,

    One last thing. The Sun is a money making entity. They already have many Progressives that comment. They also have Conservatives like Carmen and others who comment. They don't have many people like me. My letters usually elicit responses and I suspect that is the reason they publish my letters. They are a left leaning newspaper so surely they don't agree with much of what I say, so that cannot be the reason.

    Michael

  36. Bradley,

    I know you support the Democrats, which is fine. What they say probably matches most closely to your core philosophy. What I find sad is that neither of our two major parties actions are within several football fields of their rhetoric. With that distance between what they say and what they actually do, it does make some of us wonder just how much difference it really makes. I know there is a difference but it certainly isn't as big as it might appear. Terrible performance is terrible performance, no matter who is performing.

    Michael

  37. MKC: Simple reasoning for simple minds: let's just pretend it's all partisan politics and either the Dems or Reps fault. Let's point fingers and accuse those who don't agree with me that they are of the "bad" party. AS IF we're O. appointees working with IRS, Labor, FBI to make life miserable for anyone open-minded about a TEA party. Let us not do anything effective such as demand our laws be enforced and that our economy be operated with reasonable financial decision making.

  38. Dr. Carson allows each (wo)man her/his rights and personal space to make her/his own way in life. THE problem with our government is that they (and many constituents demand this) want the government to set policy in so many areas--regulations for the cable companies.....in today's world sort of necessary but shouldn't be. HOA boards, rules, regs...

    Bradley......did I read that right--you think TEA party is against the middle class???? Think about it when you're sober.

  39. Thanks Michael, for your many thoughtful comments regardless of agreement or disagreement.