Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Why Political Dialogue in America Is Pointless

Rachel Tumin/Collegian

The United States of the 21st century faces an ever-lengthening laundry list of problems – especially given our complex and globalized world in which many opinions differ. The unprecedented severity of our problems – a fundamentally unsound economy, our apocalyptic national debt, climate change, along with countless international conflicts – has reached a level we have never previously encountered. Despite the tremendous growth the U.S. has experienced in the past 60 years, since the mid-1970s we have lacked efficiency and prudent long-term decision-making.

The cause of our problems is very simple. The process of resolving our countless predicaments requires the cooperation of Congress.

We are incapable of solving our problems because, despite its current legality, the vast majority of U.S. Congress members effectively act as legislative prostitutes on behalf of corporations and special interests.

All of our policy decisions are wrong because they are made not by representatives of the people, but rather representatives of the banks, defense contractors, media, oil, drug and health care companies, and just about anyone else smart enough to realize the boon of their investment in lawmakers. The media does not report on any of this, out of both fear and complicity, and as a result very few Americans are aware of the pervasiveness of this corruption.

In order to solve these problems we must first reform our legislature. Otherwise, any political dialogue is essentially pointless.

Lawmakers and other government officials are bribed in a variety of ways. While a senator earns a salary of $174,000 annually, the perks of the office amount to far more than that. Private jets, luxurious hotels, meals at expensive restaurants, endless expense accounts and a 24-hour car service are just some of the perks that senators and congressmen live for.

Corporations donate millions of dollars to legislators, whether directly through campaign funding, through lobbyists, via outside perks or through political action committees. The financial industry alone spent $5 billion in campaign funding and lobbying from 1998-2008, according to MarketWatch. This money finances the legislators’ lifestyle and also ensures their re-election. This is to say nothing of the lucrative land deals, insider stock trading, and other forms of crony capitalism that is ubiquitous in our Congress.

In perhaps the ultimate reward for their prostitution, upon retirement or forced departure from government, many of these individuals go to work for the very companies who funded and sustained their rise to power. Lawmakers regularly accept multi-million dollar salaried positions as directors, advisors, consultants, lobbyists, or analysts from corporations; the very same corporations over which they held legislative authority.

The political debate in this country is increasingly hostile, divided and extreme. We are told that there is great disagreement in the country over how to handle our problems. Our political parties have been polarized in order to trick the American people into thinking this discussion is anything but a farce. The vast majority of what goes on in Washington, D.C., is not legitimate political discourse. It is a partisan show put on for the populace. The rhetoric spewed by members of Congress means nothing. Most members have no real ideology. They are simply bought and paid for their service. Before I realized how colossally corrupt our government is, I was a standard conservative who would likely agree with Republicans on most issues. This is a belief system that many Americans are able to hold, because they don’t know the truth. As for the Democratic voters who think their lawmakers are representing them, they’re almost as foolish.

Americans are unaware of the truth because our media ignores the most important issues and instead focuses on polarizing and often entirely irrelevant topics (i.e. Whitney Houston, Tim Tebow, President Barack Obama’s “war on religion”) that don’t even deserve airtime. Most of what corrupts our system is technically “honest graft.” It’s corruption in plain sight, blatantly ignored. The news networks air puff-pieces and purposely give worthless softball interviews in order to guarantee access to politicians. Media conglomerates only care about one thing: advertising, and by extension ratings.

As a result, news stations and other media outlets are instructed to artificially make public figures look good. Would a senator come back on your program if you question his hypocrisy? Of course not, he’ll simply go elsewhere. Rigorous media interviews are so rare that whenever one is actually conducted, it is met with shock and chagrin from the subject and his camp. How dare you have the audacity to ask an incisive question?

Politicians think they’re irreproachable; they often distort facts, issue misleading information, and deliberately lie. Fox News (I am a former patron) has been paramount to the decline in journalism in this country. Fifty years ago, Americans got their information from respected field journalists-turned newscasters; people like Mike Wallace, Bill Moyers or Walter Cronkite. Those men were on the front lines, they saw what happened, and they reported the truth. Today, that is not the case. These news “anchors” relay information via a thoroughly adulterated teleprompter teeming with inflammatory partisan jargon and misleading information, while simultaneously ignoring vital issues and obvious realities.

Issues like the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Obama on  Dec. 31, 2011, are entirely ignored by the major news networks. That’s because the media knew the public was overwhelmingly against it. This act suspended habeas corpus and now permits the military to arrest and detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without a trial. That mere sentiment goes against everything on which this country was founded, so surely no one would be in favor of such a law.

Right? Wrong.

It had widespread bipartisan support in Congress. In the three weeks before the NDAA vote in Congress, CNN mentioned the story twice in passing (Business Insider). In contrast they mentioned Tim Tebow 76 times. NDAA passed easily.

So now you know why this isn’t common knowledge. It is a conspiracy, one in which thousands of individuals are complicit. Many are foul individuals, but many are also once-honest actors who got roped into a corrupt system. Turns out you can’t get elected if your campaign only collects small contributions from individuals. You need Bank of America to grease your wheels. Turns out if you’re hopelessly surrounded by corruption, you won’t be able to do any good anyway, so why not sell out? They justify it in their minds. They look at it as a necessity of doing business, an honest interaction that still allows them to look out for their voters. They are deluding themselves.

This corruption hasn’t only infected our Congress. This graft has invaded every echelon of government. Congress, the executive cabinet, the president, the Federal Reserve, the Pentagon, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and even the Supreme Court have been infected with the disease of money in politics. I am positive that if most legislators’ voting records are crosschecked with their list of political donors the impropriety will be obvious. These men are not outliers in a largely honest system. It is indisputable that the vast majority of American legislators are beholden to special interests whose agenda and unmitigated success threaten the freedom, prosperity and safety of the American people.

In order to solve this nation’s plethora of problems we must first ensure that pragmatism, not special interests, is at the forefront of national politics. We must remove money from the equation or we will continue to lose on every issue.

Edan Samson is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at [email protected].


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  • S

    SeanOct 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    The only time congress will ever listen to the people and actually change something, is when we are all standing at the steps of congress. However, we would probably be considered terrorist at that point.

  • J

    Jake WilsonJul 3, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Great article. You nailed the problems with our government 100%. The one thing you forgot to mention is that with corruption on a scale this vast,it’s impossible to change the system by using the system.

  • C

    Corinne Cronkite-OuelletteMar 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Very well written and I’m hoping that we can do something about our congress not doing their jobs and like you wrote in your article they avoid the people whom they are supose to be working for. When my husband went to Mike Micheud (D-Maine) to see about up grading his discharge from the Navy they told him it was propaganda and to go home and be good. They even sent security guards to follow him home. He deserves his full VA military benefits and so do all the other service men and women with pending claims that have either been denied, ignored, paper work was shredded by shreddergate during the Bush administration. Now they want to kill all of the returning Veterans either by giving them dangerous medications or shooting them to death and then covering it up. So much abuse of power it’s horrorible.

    We need to clean up the white House and get all new people in there that are straight up, work for the people and no corruption or jail time for them.

  • M

    Michael GrossMar 5, 2012 at 3:24 am

    This administration has a lot to hide. It’s in the area of justice. Where are the big drug bust, insider deals and corruption cases? There are not any! They want to police us, and not themselves or the big boys. They are free to do as they please, more rules for the people. Dare any one to get more freedom out of more rules. Many are drunk with their false hope. Help us by getting the hell out of the way!

  • S

    StephanieMar 5, 2012 at 1:46 am

    This was such an amazing article. Very well written. We should never stop trying to educate people regarding what is truly going on in this nation and world!