Until politicians shape up, we should all be independents

February 7, 2010


The ongoing attempt to cobble together a health care bill has given us a priceless opportunity to see government in action. It was a “teachable moment,” as the president likes to say. The lesson in this case was that politicians are inherently incapable of reforming anything.

Reform requires pain and sacrifice. Reforming health care would require special interests to give up some benefits or sources of profit. But politicians hold power precisely by pandering to special interests, dispensing favors to those who support them and penalties to those who don’t. Insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, labor unions, lobbyists for retired persons were bought off. Then the disgraceful payoffs to hold-out politicians commenced. The goal of the bill wasn’t to reform health care but to get control of it, to make the industry subservient to political power.

It was a seat-of-the-pants enterprise from day one. Rather than addressing the perverse incentives that drive up costs, the politicians decreed costly new entitlements. Blithe promises of savings were routinely refuted by the government’s own budget office. Every day revealed negative consequence of deals cut the day before. The legislative alchemists tweaked and dickered until their pet mongrel ballooned into a 2,700 page Cerberus that none of them understood and few had even read. They’d created another bureaucratic tangle of loopholes, kickbacks, subsidies, regulations and exceptions. It was a monument to naked bribery, willful incompetence and shameless mendacity.

But don’t attribute this sordid spectacle to some genetic defect of the party in power. Rather, it’s a revelation of the way politics works, regardless of party. Politicians pursue their own self-interest and the interests of powerful lobbies. They spend enormous amounts of energy and money to protect themselves from competition and to prevent voters from unseating them. That’s why the Constitution was designed to frustrate them rather than make it easy for them to “get things done.”

Politics as it operates today fails to serve the general welfare. The general welfare has no lobbyist, no war chest other than millions of taxpayers’ thin, defenseless wallets.

The mystery is why people continue to put so much blind faith in politicians. Most of them have no experience outside of politics. How can anyone imagine they’re qualified to run the banks or change the climate? What were people thinking who swooned over Obama’s promise to “change the world,” a prospect that should have inspired dread rather than rapture?

Politicians glibly blame the “greedy” private sector, but they’re strangely silent about the role they played in creating the economic collapse. How can they improve their performance if they refuse to recognize their own mistakes? The president himself said, “We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works…” How can he in the same breath ask Americans to acquiesce in a radical expansion of Washington’s power?

A curious notion supported by some dubious study claims that independent voters are “less informed” than diehard partisans. Common sense would suggest the opposite. Blind allegiance to either party seems lazy, thoughtless. It’s more likely that independents are the ones who do their homework, judge each candidate on his merits and refuse to give any candidate support just because he’s a Democrat or a Republican. Independents looked at the health care bill without partisan blinders and gave it a thumbs down. The statement they made in Massachusetts recently was hardly an endorsement of the disheveled Republican Party. It was a rejection of the political status quo. Independents aren’t knee-jerk obstructionists. They’re not polarized. They’re united in disgust.

A politician worth voting for should be at war with his own party. Wouldn’t it be encouraging to hear a Democrat chastise the teachers unions for blockading educational reform or a Republican tell his xenophobic constituents that our long-term vitality depends on immigration? Until politicians recover some identifiable principles, we should all be independents. Politicians shouldn’t think they have us in their hip pockets. We should hold their feet to the fire and make them writhe for our precious votes.

— George Gurley, a resident of rural Baldwin City, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

The Tea Party's Takeover of the GOP

The anti-health care reform rally in Washington indicates the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement are increasingly one and the same.

You have to hand it to Michele Bachmann: She has succeeded in turning the GOP into one big Tea Party. This past weekend, the Minnesota Republican went on Fox News and called on viewers to show up on the Capitol lawn on Thursday at noon for a press conference and a last ditch attempt to kill health care reform. The gathering that resulted was marked by the now-routine extremism of the Tea Party conservatives. "I'm a bitter gun owner who votes," read one sign.

Others questioned President Obama’s citizenship, portrayed him as Sambo, or called him a traitor. One said, "Obama takes his orders from the Rothschilds." Old ladies wore red T-shirts decrying "Obamao care." The crowd also took spirited swipes at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At one point someone yelled, "Put down your Botox and show yourself."

But what was most noteworthy was that the entire House Republican leadership was also in attendance—and their rhetoric was just as over-the-top as some of the protesters. House Minority Leader John Boehner declared the health care bill the "greatest threat to freedom I have seen."

In essence, Congressional Republicans were merging with a movement that gives open expression to racist and anti-Semitic sentiments.

The crowd was several thousand strong, many bused in by Americans for Prosperity, a group created by the owners of Koch Industries, a huge oil and gas conglomerate. The AFP chapter from New Jersey reportedly sent 29 buses.

Four AFP buses came from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and more came from Richmond and North Carolina. Lots of people in the crowd carried AFP signs or stickers warning "Hands off my health care."

More: http://motherjones.com/politics/2009/11/tea-partys-takeover-gop

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

The USA House and Senate has to be the most arrogant body of government on the planet.

These folks do NOT give a damn that the public wants HR 676, want the troops home,want new energy sources and want jobs. The most important matter to 95% of officials is their egos and blowing off the voting public.

The greatest threat to National Health Insurance HR 676 is the healthcare industry and their margins of profit.Then comes those politicians on their special interest campaign money payroll who weasel around the issue. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/12/AR2009061204075.html

Yet most industrialized nations have it. You know the ones taking american jobs away courtesy of corporate america and special interest campaign money.

It’s time elected officials give voters what they want instead of elected officials giving WE voters what they want.

Veterans would be far better off with National Health Insurance. Instead vets are getting ignored and insurance companies are getting more corporate welfare: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/18/politics/washingtonpost/main4873963.shtml

WANT green collar jobs,alternative energy, jobs back to america and healthcare for all? Not with an arrogant government that says screw the voters in spite of how all of them have screwed up the economy. Instead the crooks keep getting more tax dollars from the government.....NOT WE THE TAXPAYER.

Why do americans fall over themselves for political media stars and fat cats? Have we not learned that these people NEVER make things better they just continue the corporate welfare and watch american jobs go abroad. It really stinks!

STOP sending the same faces back to Washington it is doing none of us any good. Why bring Brownback back to Kansas?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

The parties, news media and corporate america do NOT need to decide who OUR candidates should be for local,state or federal level representation. Why do we allow them to decide considering there are billions more of us?

The media has become a large part of the special interest takeover of our process as if they know what is best for all of us. Voters support this takeover by voting for those candidates who spend the most money and the question is why?

The media loves those big dollars the incumbents get and they keep increasing their rates.....what a racket!

Campaigns go too long,spend way too much money and do not necessarily provide the best available. It is up to us to stop the nonsense at the voting booths.

Replace 95% of all elected officials every 4 years for the house and every 6 years for the Senate.

Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing.

Lets’s demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : http://www.fairvote.org/irv/ Demand a change on the next ballot.

The big money ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE MORE BEHOLDEN than ever to corporate special interests due to the very long nature of campaigns. How do they have time to do the job they were elected to do? Elected officials say NO to the voters while officials live in glass houses.

We need public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue. http://www.publicampaign.org/

Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers and their bought and paid for politicians!

Demand all presidential candidates participate in debates NOT only those selected by the media and two parties.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Careful now. There are some real characters that run under the independent label. Independents cannot vote in primaries.

The real problem as I see it is that the greater majority of voters do not pay attention to politics or candidates. Of course this is what politicians hope for.

Local politics are equally as important as national politics yet people do not participate. Yet local politicians increase our cost of living likely more than Washington D.C. in the name of "improving our quality of life".... what a hoax.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 8 months ago

Thank you George.

This was by far the best column I have read this year.

I have no doubt, however, that you will be labeled a liberal for thinking like a free man.

George Lippencott 5 years, 8 months ago

Thank you , sir.

Not sure I buy into the posts that relate to "tea baggers" or Republicans.

I think Mr. Gurley's column stands for itself.

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