83% of Americans – including NRA members – want universal background checks before gun ownership changes. That means mandatory background checks before sales at retail stores, at gun shows, private sales and even when Grandpa tearfully hands his lovingly preserved hunting rifle to his grandchild. We want to ensure that the recipient of the firearm isn’t a homicidal maniac.
Over 65% of us believe that climate change is both real and that human beings are contributing to it in significant measure. Two out of three Americans believe we should be taking action to stem the tides that trash our coastal cities and the drought that is scorching our fields and limiting our agricultural yields.
99% of Americans believe public education is both right and necessary for the future welfare of our children and our nation. 67% believe we need to expand pre-school education because studies have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that early childhood education leads to greater success in life. Not surprisingly, parents in America want that for their kids, regardless of their present economic situation.
Over four out of five Americans believe in a strong national defense, while at the same time they believe that we cannot and should not engage in continuous war. Over 90% of Americans believe that we spend far too much on military hammers, toilet seats, and unnecessary hardware and want to see a substantial reduction in those expenditures and a lot of common sense applied to the Pentagon’s activities.
Just short of 100% of Americans believe that we should stop granting tax exemptions to the world’s most profitable entities, like big oil, big finance and big anything with idyllic island locations to park their billions of dollars tax-free.
The frog boil of healthcare cost escalation that has run concurrently with a worsening of medical outcomes relative to the rest of western civilization has at last caught the attention of the majority of Americans. They want the system fixed, not more scary slogans. They want reasonably priced healthcare and world-class outcomes. They want an end to the one out of two personal bankruptcies that are caused by catastrophic medical bills. In short, they want what so many other western countries provide.
Q. What do all of these situations have in common?
A. Congress refuses to act in accordance with the will and desires of the majority of Americans.
Now, why is that? The people we send to Washington to represent us are privy to the same information as the rest of us. They certainly aren’t so bereft of intelligence that they don’t get it. So, what explains the refusal of congress to do our will?
Turns out that it’s all about Human Being 101 and its first imperative, preservation of self. To see how that works, you have to step through a logic tree. Here is how it works:
- Politicians very often act like people, in that they focus on self-interest, which for them is to get elected and then stay in office.
- A successful campaign requires lots of television and radio advertising, which is hideously expensive, so candidates must raise a lot of money.
- It is very difficult to raise anywhere near enough money for a successful campaign through small, individual contributions, so candidates must solicit big contributions.
- By far the biggest contributions come from corporations and big money individuals who can contribute unlimited “soft money” to SuperPAC’s, which will air lots of television advertising for its candidate.
- The money from all of those people and corporations is necessary for the next election, too, so politicians, once elected, refrain from actions and votes that might be objectionable to the big bucks contributors.
- Sometimes, that puts politicians at odds with the vast majority of Americans, as they vote in favor of the interests of people who are their big contributors, and against the will and interests of those who are not.
At root, if We The People want our will to be done, like the issues listed above, we have to remove the core driver of our political dysfunction. We cannot change human nature and politicians will continue to do what is in their self-interest. What we can do is to demand change to political fund raising, the engine of our national political dysfunction. Until we do that, we’re just swatting at symptoms.
Editorial note: The statistics presented in this essay are approximate due to time limitations for sourcing. However, they are spot-on correct in their meaning. You can look it up. JA
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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