Can’t keep politicians honest? Give them less power and money!
By SETH GROSSMAN
(Reprinted from September 23, 2009 Current Newspapers of Atlantic County)
Last week our daily newspaper asked these questions of five selected people. The group included former Democratic Congressman Bill Hughes and Republican Gov. Christie Todd Whitman ? two people who created the mess we are in ? but no conservatives.
“What is wrong with New Jersey? Why do so many public officials sell their office for an envelope full of cash? What can the state do to change what appears to be a culture of corruption?”
The answers are simple. They were given long ago by the people who created our nation in 1776 and who reformed our state Constitution in 1844.
Our founders knew from bitter experience that government is corrupt and corrupting. Even politicians who begin with the best intentions get intoxicated by the money, the power, and the praise, honor and celebrity that comes with money and power ? if they are in too long.
Unlike the French, our American Revolutionaries knew they could not change human nature. That is why the government they designed did very few things, had little power, cost little money, and was easy to operate, understand and control.
They declared in 1776 that we are all created equal with certain “unalienable rights.” They said that governments are instituted only to “secure these rights” and to exercise “their just powers with the consent of the governed.”
They saw how European rulers became popular by misusing government for other purposes, and they saw the disasters this created. To stop that from happening here, our founders created written constitutions to limit the power of our politicians.
We have corruption in government today because few Americans, including judges, understand why our written constitutions were created and why they must be followed. Today’s judges so completely misread the plain language of our constitutions that there are now almost no limits on what government can do.
Politicians tax, spend and borrow as much as they want. Voters today feel entitled to demand even more.
Winning elections now means winning unlimited money and power. So of course people will do whatever it takes to win. Right now, they are just lying, cheating and stealing. But with so much at stake, threats, broken windows, beatings and killings can’t be too far behind ? unless we wake up.
Former Congressman Bill Hughes wrote last week that “members of the current Congress ? have been told by their leadership ? to raise between $250,000 and $850,000 in so-called ?dues money? for committee assignments. Where must these members look to obtain the money to make these ?donations? ? the groups who are affected most by the laws that Congress seeks to enact. ? State lawmakers find themselves under similar fundraising pressures.”
Hughes won election to Congress 10 times from 1974-1994 and was in office for 20 years, from 1974 to 1994. Then he used his influence to be ambassador to Panama for three years to juice up his already generous federal pension.
Republican Frank LoBiondo took over when Hughes retired and was elected eight times in a row, for 16 years in office. Are these guys that brilliant and virtuous? Think again. Roughly 98 percent of all incumbent members of Congress around the country ? good, bad and ugly ? were also re-elected every time they ran.
Former Atlantic City Councilman Craig Callaway is in prison for getting “dues money” from someone who wanted building approvals from the city. How is this different from what the folks in Congress and Trenton do every day?
How do we change this? Our daily newspaper says we should “consolidate” our small towns and school districts into big districts. Are they nuts? That would give even more money and power to fewer officials that we would know even less about. If big districts are better, why are small districts like Linwood, Somers Point and Ventnor much less expensive, wasteful, and corrupt than big districts like Camden, Newark and Jersey City? Why are U.S. congressmen elected from even bigger districts so bad?
The only real solution is to bring back the culture of liberty and limited government we used to have.
If we can’t make politicians honest, let’s at least give them less power and money. This will give us more time, money and freedom to improve our own lives, and makes us less dependent on “the kindness of strangers.”
Referees in a football game only apply simple rules fairly and equally to everyone. That’s why America has such good and honest football.
For more information visit www.libertyandprosperity.org, contact Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman at email@example.com or (609) 927-7333, or listen to 92.1 FM 8 to 9 a.m. every Saturday. Breakfast discussion groups are held Saturdays after the show from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at two locations: Athena Diner, New Road, Northfield; and Pegasus Diner, Routes 40 and 47, Malaga.