It’s funny how things you once loved sometimes become anathema to you. (“Anathema” is a Greek word meaning what the hell did I ever see in you?; it’s mostly used in the context of ex-wives.) Before I lost weight, I used to love making – and devouring – chocolate chip cookies. Now I think of them only as tasty little traitors to the cause.
Conversely, there are things I used to sneer at that I no longer do. Consider Hillary Clinton. I hated her so much I sent money to her Republican opponent in her first Senate race in New York, Rick Lazio. I’m still not crazy about her, but there is now a Hillary 2016 bumpersticker on my car.
Another thing I used to be against is the public funding of elections. I used to look it as a way for elected representatives to siphon even more money from taxpayers than they already do. But then I had some epiphanies.
Epiphany #1: Undue Influence
Why do we have income inequality? In many cases, it’s because the tax code favors the rich (mortgage deductions for second homes – really?). Why do they favor the rich? Because they’re the ones who can lobby for and influence the enactment of laws that benefit them. With public funding of elections, maybe elected representatives would have to listen to a wider array of constituents (i.e., those without money).
Epiphany #2: We’re Not Getting What We Pay For
It’s become increasingly apparent that elected representatives spend an inordinately amount of time fund-raising, rather than actually focusing on constituent issues. Not convinced? Check out this Mother Jones article as to why a GOP congressman retired, or this Newsweek article recounting a hilarious but sad Last Week Tonight segment by John Oliver.
Epiphany #3: Technology Changes Everything
One of the reasons I was concerned about public funding of elections was the inordinately high cost of buying television ads. I thought the only entities that would benefit would be television stations. But technology fixes that. There are so many more inexpensive ways for candidates to reach voters, whether through blogs, e-mail, Twitter, or some other electronic means. Donald Trump has practically written the handbook for it – which is the only value I can discern about him so far (unless he manages to fracture the Republican party into little, tiny, powerless pieces).
Given what a drain fund-raising is on elected representatives, I’m surprised they’re not all over this idea. Perhaps they don’t want to align themselves with Bernie Sanders. Certainly, it would be anathema – there’s that word again – for Republicans to say they want such a thing, since they’re so dead-set in favor of starving the government (even while availing themselves of police protection, air traffic controllers, fire protection, paved interstates, and other such horrible public-sector funding recipients).
All of them, Democrats and Republicans alike, should just go ahead and vote for such a plan. Hang the public response. That’s politicians’ current mode of operating now anyhow, so why change a good thing?