Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Best Congress Money Can By

When Terence O'Rourke attacks his fellow Democrats Shaheen and Hassan for voting to dismember Dodd-Frank, he imputes a certain nastiness to their motivations: Oh, they are owned by "banking interests." They are banking's whores. They sold out Main Street to Wall Street.

We can and will get into this, but, ultimately, he raises a larger question: As soon as money changes hands in the political world, is there not a built in conflict of interest between serving those who voted for you and those who pay you?
$Money: The Gorilla in the Room$

This is not limited of course to politics: How can you know and dissect out motivations?

A woman meets a man in a bar. She laughs at his jokes and moves closer to him, makes eye contact which she holds steadily. She's attracted. He says, "Your place or mine?"

Right then and there we see some insight into the nature of the relationship unfolding.

If she says, "Mine," well then that may mean she wants some measure of control. It also may imply some trust on her part. If she says, "Yours," on some level that may mean she wants to know more about him, and part of that may be his wealth, his taste, his interests.

They go to his place and it's a hovel. She leaves shortly. Or, it's a palace and she sits down on his bed. What is her motivation? Is she thinking steps ahead? If I get involved with this guy, he might be a long term prospect. 

I would not be the first to consider the thought that the difference between a prostitute and a wife is their long term plans. 

It's that old joke about the woman at the bar who accepts the proposition when asked if she'll sleep with the man who offers her $50 million. 
But when he says, "Well, then will you sleep with me for $50?"
She erupts in anger: "What kind of girl do you think I am?" 
"We have already established that," says the man, "Now, we are just haggling about the price."

Now many women will say, of course the money matters in choosing a mate, partner, ally, but the consideration would never even have gotten that far unless the values of the guy were simpatico. These ladies will say: If I'm talking to a guy at a bar and he turns out to be a Trump fan, the discussion ends there. But if he voted for Bernie Sanders and he sends Planned Parenthood a check and if he marched with the women wearing the pink pussy hat, then I might just check out his apartment. If he's poor as a church mouse, I may walk; if he's living in a Penthouse, maybe I'll spend the night.
Where are you when we need you?

Did the money matter?  

This extended analogy may be quite flawed but the point is, if you accept money from somebody who you already like for other reasons, is that a moral flaw?
That Cost Money

So the top donors to Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen accepted was Emily's list a political group which sends money to women politicians who support abortion rights.  They will say, they gave me money to keep up the good fight, which I had started before they gave me the money.  
O'Rourke will say, now they've got you.  What happens when it's about late term abortion, so late term you might think it's infanticide?  Or what happens when Emily's list decides to push a bill for reparations to all Black Americans for slavery?

Does accepting money that mean Shaheen and Hassan have been bought and sold? If they got $50 million from Emily's list is that worse than they got $50?
Are we just now haggling about the price?

The fact is, you can go on to the "Open Secrets" website and it's still tough to tease out who is sending any senator money. There is also all that Dark Money we cannot trace, especially since the Supreme Court ruled money is speech. 

Money is amplified speech.

What O'Rourke has been saying is that once we know our senators have taken bank money, how can we know whether their votes for "community banks" were based on a judgment about what's good for the average citizen in New Hampshire or based on paying off the investment the banks made in the senators?

We cannot.

Our senators could reply: Look, if I took no money from anyone other than anonymous on line supporters I would have no chance to even vote. I'd never have made it to the Senate, which costs millions to run a campaign.

As matters stand, O'Rourke looks like he's tilting at windmills. "I will not take PAC money. The only consideration should be what's right."

He says that in a long line of thinkers who saw clearly the impact of money on moral decision making.  Alexander Yersin, the doctor who identified the bacillus which causes the Black plague, the first doctor to come up with an effective anti serum against plague, the first man in the history of mankind to defeat that scourge which had wiped out large portions of humanity across Europe, refused to practice medicine.  He said simply: "I could never practice medicine because I could never say to a man, 'Your money or your life.'" (Of course, that was before government sponsored National Health Care in France.) 
Conqueror of the Black Death

Like Ralph Nader, he did substantial good outside the established system. 
When he arrived in Hong Kong, a British crown colony, the British authorities would not allow him access to plague victims. They already had their selected doctors in place. So Yersin worked outside of the establishment and succeeded in conquering plague while the British effort sunk beneath the waves. 

Is he correct or too pure?

I once saw a man on a soap box speaking in Hyde Park, London.  He said, "I refuse to speak to a crowd of less than 500 people! My insights, my thoughts are simply too valuable and profound to squander on an audience of smaller size!"

Of course, the joke was, he might have been correct about the importance of what he had to say, but he was never going to get a chance to say it.
Good Luck with That 

I can write a blog which is read by only a few hundred people every week and which gets no responses. I can shout into the void and tell myself if there is a sound in the forest and only I can hear it, it's still a sound.

But I'm not running for Congress. You do that and you better take steps to get heard.

No comments:

Post a Comment