Monday, March 04, 2019

The First Proposal


A short while ago I announced that I was running for President in 2020. This has garnered widespread support from my legions of imaginary followers, but I'd like to maybe get a few real people on board. With that being said, let's begin ...

There is a lot of ink being spilled, airtime being used up, and online arguments IN ALL CAPS about the failings of our government and who is to blame. Republicans blame Democrats and illegal immigrants. Democrats blame Republicans and evangelical Christians. Liberals and conservatives constantly scream at each other. All of them, either overtly or covertly, hold donald trump responsible for the outrage du jour to some extent. Each side is firmly convinced that the other is stupid/traitorous/dishonest/evil/corrupt.

Both sides are, to a certain degree, correct in this assessment.

However, all of us -- Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative -- are being played for suckers. How?

If a piece of legislation is being considered in Congress, and there is universal support for it (100% of the American public is behind it), then there's roughly a 30% chance of that legislation being passed1. Conversely, if a piece of legislation is being considered that has absolutely zero support from the American public, then there's about a 30% chance of that legislation being passed.

Or, to quote the study cited below, "... the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

If you limit the survey of support to those who make large (over $10,000) campaign donations, though, then the likelihood of a bill's passage tracks pretty closely with support from this subgroup.

The people who make these large donations are part of a very small percentage -- 0.05% -- of the American population. This means that, out of the 350 million people or so in the United States, about 175,000 of them actually have a say in how government works while the rest of us are left to shriek at each other over emails or Russia or spray tans or Benghazi or border walls or ...

In 2018, campaign spending climbed to its highest levels in history. In the table below are the top five most expensive House races from the 2018 election cycle:

PA-01 Raised Spent Cash
Scott Wallace (D) $14,172,465 $13,535,808 $636,654
Brian Fitzpatrick (R) • Incumbent • Winner $3,383,112 $3,412,246 $116,635
TOTAL $17,555,577 $16,948,054 $753,289
WA-08
Kim Schrier (D) • Winner $8,127,418 $8,057,759 $69,660
Dino Rossi (R) $4,805,707 $4,780,546 $25,160
TOTAL $12,933,125 $12,838,305 $94,820
GA-06
Karen Handel (R) • Incumbent $8,685,781 $8,598,091 $87,689
Lucy McBath (D) • Winner $2,673,521 $2,454,836 $218,684
TOTAL $11,359,302 $11,052,927 $306,373
CA-25
Steve Knight (R) • Incumbent $2,573,689 $2,582,818 $28,064
Katie Hill (D) • Winner $8,407,103 $8,342,521 $64,582
TOTAL $10,980,792 $10,925,339 $92,646
MI-08
Mike Bishop (R) • Incumbent $3,385,093 $3,374,608 $111,073
Elissa Slotkin (D) • Winner $7,420,375 $7,401,141 $19,235
Brian Ellison (L) $8,023 $5,153 $2,870
TOTAL $10,813,491 $10,780,902 $133,178
GRAND TOTAL $63,642,287 $62,545,527 $1,380,306
The fact that four out of the five victors in these races were Democrats is, for purposes of this argument, irrelevant.

All of which is fine as far as it goes, but what does it all mean and how do we fix it?

The answer, boys and girls, is actually quite simple: eliminate private funding for general election campaigns. Not reduce, not "reform" ... eliminate.

Under our current system of private campaign financing, an incumbent member of the House of Representatives has to spend 70% of his or her time fundraising, and they must raise an average of roughly $2,500 per day.

That's not per week, or per month. Per day. As in, "I have to raise more money in a single day than many people make in a month." And they have to do it every day -- weekends, holidays, snow days, days during which Vogons show up to destroy the Earth to make room for a hyperspatial bypass2 -- no matter where they are or what they are doing.

I propose a new approach to election funding. This will be based around a Federal Election Fund, administered jointly by the Federal Election Commission and the states.
  • This fund will provide all the money that is used to run a campaign, and will be divided equally among declared candidates.
  • Private donations will be accepted, but they will not go to specific candidates, or even PACs. Instead, all money collected via donation will be deposited into the Election Fund.
  • Rules regarding "independent expenditures" will be rewritten. These regulations will be tightened and reworded so that independent groups will have to demonstrate that their message is not intended to benefit one candidate over another ... regardless of whether or not there was any coordination with the campaign.
  • Campaign funds will be allocated monthly and equally based on a formula that includes the number of declared candidates and the number of people being represented by that office.
Right about now someone is probably asking how this prevents the American people from being played for suckers. Quite simply, by removing private fundraising, we are removing one prong of the profit motive from running for office. Given that about 50% of members of Congress fall into the 0.05% mentioned above, it is pretty clear that holding office has become nothing more than an ATM for officeholders.

Granted, there are plenty of other ways in which members of Congress enrich themselves off the backs of the American people, and there are even a few (very few!) of these that are legitimate. The problem is that corruption, graft, and self-serving greed have become the norm and doing the work of the American people has shunted into a secondary role. Eliminating the need to "work the phones" for up to six or seven hours per day to raise money means that members of Congress will be able to devote that time to ... oh, I don't know ... doing their jobs.

This does not favor Democrats over Republicans, conservatives or liberals, and so on. It does, however, favor one group in particular:

All of you.

For far too long the average American has been pushed aside in favor of those who can throw wheelbarrow loads of cash at Congress. No more. I will make sure that our government is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.

I gotta lie down.

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1https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B/core-reader
2With a shout-out to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

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