Bob Franken

King Features Column

(Usual drill: This appears here a week after its newspaper release because of the deal with the syndicator)

       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, FEB. 10, 2012
       We can rail all we want about the stench of legalized corruption, but the use of campaign-finance funding to control our officeholders is here to stay. It’s time to stop fighting the lost battle and join the “pay to play” game.
       It would target the same politicians who grovel before the bad guys and their lobbyist bagmen (bag people?), clamoring for their, uh, generosity. In return they stack government and the laws in favor of deep-pocketed selfish interests. Since the politicians are for sale to the highest bidder, why not shower them with dollars, free trips and other shady financial rewards from the other side? They get their goodies if they work for and vote for good-guy meaningful reform.
       Hey, Warren Buffett: You always want the world to know that your billions of dollars have not destroyed your conscience. But it’s one thing to complain about your secretary paying more taxes than you and quite another to put your money where your mouth is.
       How about if you and that very small group of plutocrats with very large fortunes were to establish a fund that would match the dollars used to maintain the toxic unfairness that is eating away at our system? Instead of filling the wallets of politicians in return for maintaining a lopsided playing field, where economic inequality sets the rules, you would base your contributions on action to further the interests of society as a whole. You could call your effort Buffett’s Righteous Interests Buyoff Enterprise (BRIBE).
       These “righteous interests” would include laws that punish the kind of high-roller fraud that is currently legal — enabling financial manipulators to profit while they bring down the society around them. As it is now, these hustlers avoid prosecution and fines.
       BRIBE would include incentives, meaning money, to establish a tax system that requires the obnoxiously wealthy to pay their fair share. It would also put an end to subsidies for favored megaindustries, like oil and gas. No matter how great the public outrage, somehow they manage to survive after onslaughts by their government relations armies.

       While we’re at it, the campaign funds would be doled out to those who pass the kind of regulation needed to curb the worst instincts of a greedy few. That means banking and consumer rules with teeth, put into the code and vigorously enforced. Let’s put in place much stronger public-health rules imposed on pharmaceutical companies that get away with murder, as well as on a food industry that routinely undermines common-sense controls and disclosure. Their irresponsible marketing schemes have made obesity a national danger while they gobble up their fat profits.
       The lawmakers and regulators are easy to identify: They’re the ones with their hands out.
       So fill them. Leave the hand-wringing to others. If sleaze is all that works, let’s just admit that our system has become the Big Sleazy, and lubricate it with the same foul grease everyone else uses.
       Who knows: Someday, somehow, the money-grubbers might even be persuaded to pass campaign-finance laws that put some limits on all the handouts that distort our democracy. As it stands, the nation’s TV stations probably don’t have room for all the political ads. Short of starting a channel that plays nothing but candidate commercials, perhaps the two parties can agree on a solution to slow down the cash flow.
       How naive is that? Many, if not most, of these people have few skills to survive outside this realm. Keeping things the way they are is the only way to fend off players with more talent, the ones who stay away because they’re too disgusted. It’s how they stay employed. And, hey, a person’s gotta work.
       So let’s fight the bribe with BRIBE. If some good can come out of it, it won’t matter how bad it still smells.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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