Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Republic Lost by Lawrence Lessig

This book was originally published in 2011. This revised 2015 edition added the “Citizen’s United” issue which has dramatically increased the funds pouring into political campaigns which has distorted the process so dramatically that the idea of a government of, by and for the people no longer exists. The money from the few means that Congress ignores the will of the people and provides benefits for the few. This money process goes both ways, sometimes from the lobbyists to Congress and other times a demand from Congress. Both should be illegal, in my thinking and punishable by fines and jail time. I added that last sentence. It of course is off the table. On page 102 he states the following, “The lobbying industry has exploded over the past 25 years. In 1971… there were just 175 firms with registered lobbyists. Eleven years later, there were almost 2,500. In 2009, there were 13,700 registered lobbyists. They spent more than $3.5 billion-twice the amount spent in 2002. On page 107 he points out how Congress and their staff have come to look at political service like being on a sport farm team, being willing to work for less money while aiming for the payoff on K Street after leaving office. They can expect to receive exorbitant incomes for the influence they can have on current members and staff. Between 1998 and 2004, more than 50 percent of Senators and 42 percent of House members made that career transition. As of June 2011, 195 former members of Congress were registered lobbyists. Chapter 9, I found of particular interest. It concerns the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. He came in with his party in the majority of the House and Senate. People were ecstatic about the changes he promised i.e., health care for all, global warming, attack Wall Street and take on corruption. While it is true the Republicans were opposed to nearly everything he proposed, it is equally true that for the first two years he did not need their support. The author was a colleague of Obama at the University of Chicago and supported him in his political journey. Obama said all the right things. He convinced me (Jack Walters) to vote for him. After his election I actually wrote to him a number of times with my thoughts on how he could accomplish his goals. I soon realized that my effort was in vain. Rather than attack the system, he bought into it by striking bargains with the most powerful lobbyists as a way to get a bill through Congress. The author said he could not believe it. As he sees it even with majorities he still had to curry favor with the lobbyists to have any chance to achieve the goals he had promised which confirms that our government is broken with little chance for recovery. On health care the ‘public option” had been his promise. In actual fact it was never considered. He promised to curtail the influence of the drug companies. Instead right off the bat he struck a deal with them continuing to forbid Medicare from using its size to negotiate drug cost which means Americans continue to pay the highest cost of most other nations. For those of you who continue to be supporters of Obama, you will be pleased to note that the author, as he concludes this chapter gives Obama high praise for accomplishments. After lengthy writing about the money problem which I will not discuss, as you should know as well as I, his final Chapters address Constitutional Conventions as the only real hope our country can have to resolve and return to being the government of the people. He reviews the history from the beginning pointing out that it could be done without jeopardizing the basic Constitution we now have. He believes it will never start in Congress, that only three quarters of the States (38) need to request and the Congress must authorize. It can be limited in scope. I will not try to describe the process, I only hope to put this thought in your mind and perhaps mention to others. In my opinion, it is almost too late but I do like to have a sliver of hope for continuing this great country. Jack B. Walters July 12, 2016

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