Monday, December 5, 2011

Let's Go Out to the Lobby

Everywhere you look people are scratching their heads, and not one of them has an itchy scalp. Citizens – well informed and otherwise – are wondering why elected officials, from city council members to members of Congress, are unable to do much of anything. Politicians whine at great length and then do nothing. Why is this?

Well, when it comes to insidiousness, many politicians tell us nothing is more insidious than welfare And why is welfare insidious? Because it is giving a person something for nothing. And what is political lobbying? It is giving money and gifts to politicians and getting nothing in return.
Should a curious person examine the remarks of politicians, from Congressmen to the members of the lowliest municipal board in the smallest village in the country, he will never find one who has been influenced by lobbyists. In fact, every politician vehemently denies that the favors he has received influenced his stand on the issues. And that must be the case because the same politicians constantly assure us they never lie. 

According to an article on, the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, lobbyists showered members of the Missouri state legislature with tickets to this year’s National League playoffs and World Series. When the media started prying, which it always does for no other reason than to sell papers and boost ratings, the politicians proudly proclaimed they have not and will not repay the favors.

Missouri state senator Brian Nieves, a Republican, told reporters: "Nobody, no time, nowhere, no how is going to have any influence on me. I have never been influenced — that stuff is a joke." What a depressing commentary on the effect of lobbying on the nation’s elected officials. A man is given tickets to a divisional playoff game and a World Series game and all it does is strengthen his sense of entitlement. Is it any wonder elected officials never accomplish anything? 

Replace government with private enterprise, you say. That seems to be an easy answer. But, like most easy answers, it doesn’t hold up. A chart on indicates that 2.45 billion dollars was spent last year by those lobbying Congress and various Federal agencies. Not all that money came from organizations promoting American ideals; some of it came from groups spouting immoral, socialist nonsense. But if just half those lobbying dollars came from groups promoting free and unfettered enterprise, then the private sector spent 1.225 billion dollars to buy off people who can’t be bought. The money might as well have been flushed down the toilet. At least then it would have clogged the sewers and revealed another example of shoddy government workmanship. 

Perhaps it’s human nature to try to buy influence, even when those selling it simply take the money and run. If that is the case, we ought to be searching for ways to bring down the cost of lobbying. According to the group Public Citizen, forty-three percent of those who left Congress between 1998 and 2006 became lobbyists, with an average salary of two million dollars a year. That is a lot of money to spend on the impossible task of influencing steadfast, brave and honest politicians who will not be bought nor enticed into changing their minds. And, of course, the costs involved in lobbying are passed on to the consumer.

What is to be done? Why not let the unemployed do the lobbying? Lobbying is a pursuit that those lobbied tell us doesn’t produce results, not even minimal results. But millions of unemployed would be willing to lobby for minimal wages. It’s a perfect match. 

Because an elected official is immune to outside pressures, it won’t matter if the lobbyist who approaches him is wearing a tailored suit or scruffy blue jeans and ratty sneakers. Nor will it matter to the official if the lobbyist takes him to lunch at McDonald’s instead of a gourmet restaurant. The savings realized from lobbying on the cheap could result in lower prices for American consumers. But don’t bet on it.

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