Democracy is full of lies, cash

Richard Belzer /

Tired of the lying and distortions? Sorry, but it won’t end on Election Day.

Yes, election season is drawing to a close. If you are like me, you are growing tired of the constant lying and distortions we have seen over the past few months.

Unfortunately, the lying is not going to stop once the election is over. And the simple reason is that our representatives in Congress do not dare tell us the truth. Why not? Do you really think any of these people want to come right out and say, “We’re really not working for you; we work for those who really control whether or not we win or lose elections — huge corporations and the wealthiest 0.1 percent of American citizens.”

But wait a minute. Don’t our votes elect these people to serve on our behalf in Congress? Don’t we decide who shall stay in office and who shall depart? Don’t we live in a democracy?

The answer to these questions is that we live in a “theoretical democracy.”

Yes, our votes do count, but the reality is that overwhelming money dropped into a particular race can almost always be counted on to swing our votes (and the ultimate decision) one way or the other. Political ads running over and over again can paint lies as the plain truth and will sway voters accordingly.

So Congress operates via a form of legalized bribery where those able to contribute the most to political campaigns have enormous influence and the rest of us live with the consequences. In a sense, it is almost worse than bribery as it is the threat of big money coming in against them that really keeps our congressmen and senators in line. (These are legal threats, of course.)

So how does this all work for us? Examples of Congress’ inability to solve problems on our behalf abound. Here are a couple:

All of the other industrialized nations have been able to establish effective health care systems via an assortment of solutions. They provide superior health care to all of their citizens and spend a lower percentage of both their GDP and government budgets than do we.

Yet even with an abundance of examples of how this can be accomplished, we continue to have a haphazard health care system that is not only expensive but leaves millions out. Why can’t Congress solve this problem when many others have? There is simply too much money arrayed against a solution that even vaguely resembles those in other industrialized nations.

What about deficit reduction? Every time Congress comes up against a hard deadline, they kick the can down the road; another hard deadline faces us at the end of this year with potentially dire consequences if an agreement isn’t reached. Every bipartisan committee that has looked at this problem has found that it will take both spending cuts and revenue increases in order to address this problem. Yet a solid block in Congress stands firm that tax increases for anyone are off the table. Returning to the tax code in place during the Clinton years when we operated with a balanced budget is completely off the table and non-negotiable.

Congress knows it can solve the deficit problem for us and our children, but it refuses to do it.

And who are the beneficiaries behind this obstructionism? I’m sure you can guess.

Is there a solution that would actually permit the citizens of this country to take back Congress from the huge corporations and individuals of vast wealth? The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has actually made things worse. and there is no change forthcoming from them. Limiting each congressman and senator to a single term would work, but can you imagine the enormous lobbying resources that would be arrayed against such a constitutional amendment?

I hate to ever admit defeat, but it’s looking like “We the people” are sunk.