Neither Party Wants Immigration Reform that is Good for the Nation
Many people did not like President Obama’s executive order on immigration, but in his speech he stated that if Congress did not like his solution they could pass their own bill and present it to him. The failure of the U.S. Congress to pass an immigration bill reflects a larger problem in the U.S. political system, and that is our current two party system. Political parties, almost by definition, do not serve the nation. Rather, they serve the interests of their financial contributors, who do not contribute for the nation but contribute to get something from the government for themselves. With our current two-party system, no one is minding the store. The U.S. Government can be compared to a Wal-Mart store in which people pay bribes to a security guard get in, but they can walk out with what they want from the shelves without stopping at a cash register. Our elected representatives are those security guards.
The parties have become the factions that so worried the U.S. Founders, particularly James Madison:
By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.—James Madison, Federalist 10
U.S. government policies today are determined primarily by political parties, not by citizens. As much a possible, political parties put party loyalists on the ballot as candidates. Then once elected, party contributors prepare legislation and hire lobbyists to help shepherd it through. What politicians call “across the aisle” legislation is generally a bill that combines multiple interests (pork) that gives the financial contributors to each party about equal benefit at the expense of the citizens, or there is gridlock because one party wants to use the government to get something for themselves at the expense of members of the other party.
Current Lobbying can Bring a 1,000-fold Return
Lobbying pays very well. There is hardly any business more lucrative than hijacking government. Corporations listed on a Sunlight Foundation Study got nearly $1,000 in return for each dollar spent. This report did not list the rewards reaped by labor unions and government agencies that are essentially doing the same thing by lobbying, and often with other people’s money paying for their lobby efforts.
What Can Immigration Reform Do for My Party?
Rarely do issues of national purpose align with party purpose. When they do it is only incidental. Illegal immigrants, for example, have traditionally served democrats’ interests as potential democratic voters. They have served Republican interests as cheap laborers who can earn businesses larger profits. This is not an issue on which parties can agree, therefore there is gridlock. Even when it causes a problem of critical national interest, it does not serve either party’s interests to solve the problem with legislation that best serves the immigrants themselves or the well-being of the entire society. For this reason, the President was forced to act, and as much as possible he acted unilaterally in a way that served his own party as much as possible.
It is not just Congress controlled by the political parties. U.S. Supreme Court nominations, appointments of agency heads, like the recent Ebola Czar or Obamacare website, and foreign assignments, like nation-building in Iraq under George W. Bush, go to party members as a reward for loyalty rather than to people with the best skills to perform the task. When these projects fail, or require an unnecessary learning curve, it is easy for these loyalists to procure additional funding at taxpayer expense—thus the $5 hammers the Defense department ended up paying $120 to purchase.
The Federal Income Tax Opened the Candy Store
Since the U.S. was founded, there have been attempts to use government for non-public purposes. The U.S. Post Office offered some of the earliest opportunities for cronyism, as politicians could often get post office jobs for their relatives. And, certain railroads received federal lands and grants that made some people wealthy, while driving those who didn’t receive favors out of business. Then, in the late 19th century we started seeing the nomination Supreme Court justices who had been attorneys for railroads. Major banks altered the system more profoundly with the creation of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16th Amendment to enable the collection of income taxes necessary to support it. That opened a candy store, first by states lobbying for road money and other handouts to states. To get this new supply of money to lobbyists from corporations and social reformers, the 17th Amendment was required. These two constitutional amendments, more than any other action, transformed a republican form of democracy with checks and balances into a democracy with elements of plutocracy and mobocracy. Eventually these two elements came to dominate the agendas of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. This is discussed in detail in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0.
The Party if Over for the Parties
It took a while for enough people to figure out how to rob the candy store to empty it out, but today the U.S. has reached that point. The big party in Washington is coming to an end, as more IRS force is used to try to squeeze more money out of taxpayers as the easy money has dried up and caused a negative economic spiral that forces the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at near zero (if rates went up the government could not repay its debts). The U.S. is beginning to learn the lesson that Plato taught us 2,500 years ago, and Madison and other founders understood Plato:
Democracies are prone to unrestrained growth and factionalism of competing special interests seeking to influence leaders in order to fulfill private desires at the expense of the public good.—Robert Kane, Though the Moral Maze (Paragon House, 1994), p. 122.
Reigning in the Parties
There are a few obvious solutions to fixing the government so that it can again serve the people, rather than the special interests that control political parties. None of these, of course, will be easy to implement because the interests reaping thousand fold rewards from the present system will resist tooth and nail:
- Remove party affiliation from ballots. This will cause voters to actually think about their choices and make more informed and responsible decisions.
- Ban political contributions from corporations or political parties to candidates’ campaigns, and limit contributions to individual citizens who cannot contribute more than $100 per candidate. This will restore the economic side of political power to the citizens, more in line with “one person, one vote.” It will also eliminate most mass media advertising and force the news media to do investigative reporting on candidates to present in mass media stories.
- Repeal the 16th amendment, which enables the federal government to circumvent states and create the federal candy store.
- Repeal the 17th amendment, which removed the states’ representatives from their own union, the Federal Government, and made the Senate a redundant body and eliminated the most important check and balance in the U. S. political system.
These four issues currently give our political parties both the financial and political power to trump genuine nation concerns like proper immigration reform with their own agendas, and to impose gridlock when they cannot use the legislation for their own selfish purposes. Reasons for taking these actions, and other ways to reduce the viruses and trojans that have infective the U.S. political system are further explained in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0.