07 October 2009

Moribund Body Politic, an Encouragement (?)

I agree with Robert Borosage, writing in the Huffington Post today:

    The president has called on the Congress to act on fundamental reforms that cannot be avoided. Our broken health care system is unaffordable and must be fixed. Moving to new energy policy is a national security, economic and environmental imperative, not a choice. Fundamental financial reform is necessary if we are to avoid a worse crisis in the near future.

    Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans in Congress oppose these reforms. They want, as Limbaugh proclaimed, the president to fail. But they aren't the major roadblocks to the change we need. What stands in the way is the organized power of the entrenched lobbies that have a direct stake in limiting change, and are willing to spend hundreds of millions to obstruct it. Their legions are less angry citizens, than sophisticated lobbyists, increasingly Democrats, many of them retired legislators. They deliver campaign contributions, not votes. They threaten negative campaign ads, not authentic citizen uprisings. 

    Read more here.

As I see it, this fundamental problem, the lack of responsiveness to the public, but only to organized corporate money, is one of the two main reasons it has become virtually impossible to pass reform legislation without debilitating amendments in this country. The other is the unsupportable anachronism of the way the Senate works. Senators from (disproportionately Republican) smaller states have disproportionate power, and, not surprisingly, since these Senators have a harder time raising money from constituents, they tend to be even more beholden to moneyed interests than Senators from larger Northeastern and West Coast states. Then, there are the totally unworkable cloture/filibuster rules, which give way too much power to the minority, especially when the minority opposes change, as the Republicans generally do. Thus, there is an institutional bias in favor of the Republicans, who in recent decades favor pretty much only two things: lowering taxes and starting wars, both of which enough Democrats fear to vote against that they sometimes get them passed. Since other than these things they seldom try to do much of anything, the rules and structure of the Senate give them disproportionate power.

What to do? Oh, that's simple enough. Campaign finance reform to take the money out of politics (except the Right Wing Supreme Court has already virtually guaranteed with its ridiculous rulings equating money with speech that that can't happen).

And, a constitutional amendment to make the Senate elected by proportional representation and mandate fairer procedural rules. (Ha, ha. That has a real good chance of passing through the convoluted process of getting a constitutional amendment approved, in which process the smaller states tending to be Republican have even more disproportionate power, since it takes three quarters of them to approve an amendment).

So, we're in the soup, my friends. Our government is dysfunctional to the point of being moribund, and there is no cure in sight. I suppose we can take encouragement that no political system, no matter how good or bad, lasts forever.

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