Purest Intentions of the Government

Introduction: It is in the governments best interest to provide patronage to the poor. In order for them to have the resources to do so they must acquire donors. These select individuals, however kind of them to distribute the funds needed, restraint is advised. The concern of this pure attempt is that providing an excessive amount of money to politicians would yield the wrong effect. Politicians, then, would become the main economic barrier to economic security for the poor.

It is for that reason my partner and I negate this resolution…

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Resolved: The government must provide economic security to the poor.

Transition: In the purest intentions of the government, being completely in control of the funds granted to the poor would be a conflict of interest on its most basic level. However, money can only be unquestionably given to the poor through the government. Which will put both the donors and politicians charged with this task under stress, and would effect the morale of the poor regarding this new system of granting funds. Most politicians who believe in this new movement of equality are uncorrupt in nature, but that doesn’t mean that the money coming in doesn’t have another agenda hidden within the generosity. Political donors are wealthy individuals who have a plethora of funds that they distribute in order to achieve their political expectations. Because they have a seemingly endless sum of money, they expect the politician of their selected donation to speak their views in the voice they were elected upon. Unfortunately… we must find stability in order for the financial assistance to be untainted.

Patronage is a serious problem for several reasons. The 3 main arguments:

First, it promotes political appointments rather than merit appointments and leads to a bloated, less effective government. This happens because it is basic human nature, or the term ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine.’ This also gives people the instinct that every politician they hear is corrupt.

Second, patronage helps corrupt politicians by giving wealthy donors an incentive to prop up those who will repay their donors. According to represent.us, congress has a 20% approval rating, but a 97% reelection rate. Considering that most congressional races are won by the people who raised the most money, corporations will prop up incumbents because they are currently representing them.

Finally, patronage harms low-level civil servants by allowing politicians to threaten consequences if the worker refuses to donate to the incumbent’s political campaign. Politicians gain the ability to extort their employees with the threat that, if they don’t give money or support, they may be replaced by people who are political donors. Politicians gain the ability to extort their employees with the threat that, if they don’t give money or support, they may be replaced by people who are political donors.

Before the early 19th century, patronage in the federal government was not an issue that was significantly visible to the general public. It is almost certain that it existed, but it was not a topic that was commonly discussed. Unfortunately, patronage radically increased during the early 19th century, eventually leading to a critical point with the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. After the 1828 election, President Andrew Jackson engaged in a massive overhaul of the federal payroll, and replaced almost 10% of federal service posts with his appointees, based off of the Hermitage. President Jackson’s extreme use of patronage set the tone for decades, as numerous successive presidents followed his example. The spoils system allowed political parties to raise large sums from the contributions of those who were on the government payroll and reduced the need of politicians to raise money from outside of the government payroll. When politicians run for office today, one of the first things they do is fundraise from Wall Street and other large donors. According to visual provided by Mother Jones, 57 senators in the 111th Congress took more money from the finance industry than any other special interest group. In a situation where the party in power has so much ability to compel donations from employees, the election system becomes imbalanced—the incumbent has a large, inherent fundraising advantage and is able to get a head start on campaign fundraising through their appointees. Eventually, discontent with the spoils system, as well as the negative effects that it had on government efficiency, led to reform which made political patronage much more difficult. Unfortunately, these restrictions are by no means perfect, and we still see political appointees in all levels of our federal government. Consider George W. Bush’s appointment of Michael Brown as head of FEMA, despite his absolute lack of credentials. Also consider Betsy DeVos’s position as education secretary despite pushing for school privatization. In the past, just as we see today, those with power and money have been able to gain extraordinary influence over political structures and politicians. During the late 19th century, numerous corporate “trusts”, or large monopolistic interests which consolidate power under a single owner began to form and influence politicians. These trusts existed in a wide variety of industries and some of the more powerful ones were Standard Oil, US Steel, and the American Sugar Refining Company. Such interests controlled huge and profitable sectors of our economy and were able to exert considerable power. In 1896, the McKinley vs. Bryan presidential race became the most expensive political race in American history due to the increased spending by corporate entities. In order to win the election, McKinley and the Republican Party spent over $4 million dollars, which was mostly raised from corporate donors (The Miller Center) At the time, $4 million dollars was an absolutely unheard of amount of money to spend on a political campaign and with inflation taken into account, this record would not be broken until 1960. In the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court ruled that limits on election spending in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 are unconstitutional. As mentioned earlier, the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC ruled that money falls under the category of free speech and that corporations were the equivalent of people. The problem with this ruling is that it gives a disproportionate amount of power to those who are wealthy since they possess the most “speech”. This ruling and lax campaign finance laws creates a massive conflict if interest because it allows people like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson to spend unbelievable amounts of money on campaigns and Super PACs so that the politicians who are elected represent those people and not the average American. According to a study conducted by Princeton University, “A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18% of the time,” they write, “while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45% of the time.” On the other hand, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.” Basically, the likelihood that a bill gets passed to benefit average Americans is 20% no matter how much the people want it. Despite that, the representation amongst elitists is much greater, being closer to the idea of ideal representation. This shows that President Jimmy Carter was right in saying that the US functions more as an oligarchy than a democracy or a republic. The other problem is that money is not speech. For example, the court limited the First Amendment rights of Hare Krishna who was soliciting donations in airports to support their own leafleting. The leafleting drew no money-is-speech analysis. To the contrary, the conservative justices, led by Chief Justice Rehnquist, found that by asking for money for leafleting, their form of speech was being “disruptive” and posing an “inconvenience” to others. In other words, in the court’s view, some people’s money is speech while others’ money is annoying. Even if money did equal speech, the US government would be violating everybody’s free speech right. An American law professor told senators that outlawing prostitution was a violation of the First Amendment if spending money was a form of free speech. “Your other point though about money not equaling speech is a critical point for people to understand,” American University professor Jamie Raskin said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “There are lots of forms of purchase and exchange that we criminalize, for example, buying sex. We don’t say if someone wants to purchase the services of a prostitute, well that is just an expression of their speech.” In its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court ruled that limits on political spending violated the First Amendment. The court held that spending money to influence elections was a form of constitutionally protected speech. The decision was later followed by similar rulings in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, further eroding limits on political spending and contributions. The Supreme Court rulings have led to an unprecedented amount of money being spent to influence the outcome of elections. Basically, what this law professor is saying is that if money is speech, then having illegal prostitution is unconstitutional because in the eyes of the law, it wouldn’t be prostitution. Instead, it would be an expression of speech of how much a person likes having sex. For example, Assemblyman William Boyland was among the eight men accused of taking millions in bribes to keep Walmart out of NYC, along with other corrupt legislative issues. Although he was acquitted of federal corruption charges, he was arrested on a separate bribery charge. In 2013, he plead not guilty to the bribery. The same thing can be said for any illegal purchase. If a person is buying crystal meth on the street, the Supreme Court should say it is a form of speech on how much the person likes crystal meth. In fact, bribery itself should be legal by these standards that money is speech.

The idea of having campaign finance has been rapidly brought up during the 2016 Presidential Election, especially by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. He brought up how billionaires like the Koch brothers spend massive sums of money so that they can trample the voices of the poorer people while benefiting only themselves. According to a poll done by the New York Times, 66% of Americans believe that the wealthy have more influence in our political field. That same poll said that the people believe the wealthiest Americans too much influence in politics. As presented, it is clear that the American people find the idea of big money in politics to be unpopular. However, if you campaign focusing largely on the idea of tackling money in politics, you have a strong likelihood that you will win the election. Why do I say this? If you campaign against big money interests, you appear as a more authentic individual than your opponent. For example, a couple of months ago, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders did a town hall in West Virginia. He did a town hall in a county where, according to Politico, 75% of the vote went to Donald Trump, and an overwhelming amount of people attending voted for Trump. Ironically, despite all that information, Senator Sanders received standing ovations from the crowd. This happened because the people of West Virginia saw Senator Sanders as a more authentic character. In fact, one person even thanked Senator Sanders for doing a better job representing the people of West Virginia better than someone like Mitch McConnel. By attacking money in politics and making it a key part of your platform, you will not only make your base energized, you will make people from your opponents base vote for you, not because of your policies on healthcare or education, but because you appear more authentic. No matter what someone’s opinion is on healthcare, or education or climate change, the US cannot move in any direction so long as a handful of billionaires control our economic and political life.

Conclusion: Politicians no longer cater to the people, they only cater to the donors handing them the money they need to stay in office. Their inevitable end is becoming reliant on the funds provided by the investors tearing them between the needs of the people and the expectations of the rich. The government should eliminate the fierce hold political donors have on politicians, thus continuing to allow citizens of the United States to truly see the politician’s views, uninfluenced by the funds of others. This way, our citizens are able to voice their concerns, such as economic security, without fearing the retribution from the rich.

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