To: Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Big Snooze
Just in case you have wondered why I have had so little to say about
campaign-finance reform, I will tell you: It is boring. It not only cannot hold my attention, it also puts me to sleep.
I think you are both swell United States Senators and if I could, I would vote for you. But I think all the fuss you are making over campaign-finance reform is a total waste of
your valuable time, and mine. Every time you show up on a TV talk show to
promote that stuff, I have to channel surf until your interview ends.
The thing is, given the amount of federal government we have, with a budget
now approaching $2 trillion a year, it seems to me the amount of money that
Americans (and surreptitious foreigners) have to spend to protect themselves
from being left behind when the gravy train pulls out is just about right. What was the amount spent last year on all the campaigns for the White House and Congress? A billion, give or take? That is less than a tenth of one per cent of the government’s annual spending! And as far as I can tell, that cash — the mother’s milk of politics — has been spread around pretty evenly.
If elections really do depend on the amount candidates have in their
coffers, look at the facts: George W. Bush won by the teeniest, tiniest of
margins — one puny vote in the Electoral College, and the Senate came out
even-Steven, with the House in Republican hands by a handful of votes. Does
it get any more equal than that?
If we had your McCain-Feingold reform, what would we get? If it really did
economize on spending for campaigns, what are we talking about? Half a
billion? That is not even pocket money any more, fellas. You mean to tell me
you are going to tie up the legislative and executive branches for several
weeks, yapping about soft money and payroll protection (whatever that is),
just so management and labor have less influence? If they have less
influence, what does that mean? Will there be fewer highways built? Will
there be fewer hospitals and schools built? Will there be fewer bailouts of
failed banks or foreign governments? Or more?
You see, I don’t get it. It also seems to me that after all the talk, even if President Bush signs McCain-Feingold into law, some citizen will take you to court and after
spending another batch of time and money, the Supreme Court of the United
States will say it is unconstitutional. Just as it has before — when other
well-intentioned folks like you try to put limits on free speech, which
means the freedom to hand out leaflets and pamphlets bought with soft money
or hard money or in-between money.
I would be shocked if the Supreme Court overturned the First Amendment. But
let’s say it did. With a trillion and a half bucks going through the federal
government’s fingers every year, the citizenry is going to have to defend
itself from being left behind. White-collar and blue-collar citizenry. If it
is no longer legal for them to do so, they will do so illegally.
The first priority of any citizen, family or institution is survival! No? You mean
Uncle Sam is going to be allowed to carry on as he has for the last few
generations, taxing, spending, regulating and legislating in ways that
threaten the survival of every citizen, family and institution, and they are
going to take it? No, sirs. They will act illegally in order to survive.
They will retain Don Corleone to make offers that can’t be refused. There
will be more graft and corruption. There will be many, many more
presidential pardons at the end of every term, to make the appropriate
payoffs. Instead of contributing money to a politician, people will protect
themselves by contributing girls (or boys, as the case may be). We are
talking Sodom and Gomorrah. Lott’s wife, a nice lady named Tricia, will
want to get out of town. I hope she does not turn back.
Do you see what I’m getting at, gentlemen? You should think things over and
maybe put your bill on the back burner.
Give Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill a call and offer to help him simplify our tax system. He’s crazy for the idea! And if we had a simple federal tax code, nobody would need to buy
protection from Uncle Sam with campaign contributions.
Then you can call Bob Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Rep, and offer to help him clean up the tariff schedules, which have not been cleaned up since George Washington was
President. A flat 6 percent ad valorem tariff, replacing the 5,000 rates on the
books, also would dry up campaign contributions, as there would be no
influence to peddle on that score. The answer, see, is to simplify,
Much more interesting and helpful than reforming
campaign finanzzzzz. …