Where ever there is someone willing to sell influence there will always be someone willing to buy that influence. There is little difference that I can see, in this regard, between Republicans and Democrats. And it’s not only politicians that sell influence. It can be any high government official. Until we can cut the size and power of government and thereby reduce the amount of influence available to sell, this type of corruption will continue to burden our society.
The above is an excerpt from the response I made today to a comment on my post “Cronyism Revisited” by Matt of Conservative Hideout 2.0. Both Matt and John Carey of The Current have posed the idea that we need a better word or term to replace the term cronyism. The word “corporatism” was suggested; the inference being that it is corporations who are buying the influence. But the reality is that there are also a myriad of special interest groups that are known to buy influence as well as corporations. The influence buyers are all looking for an edge or an advantage that will benefit them while you and I pay the cost. The influence pedlers are looking to either promote a particular political agenda or to secure and/or increase their power base. Unfortunately the majority of the public accept the term “crony capitalist” because they believe all of big business buy influence and that big business represents capitalism, therefore, “crony capitalist” fits. What these people don’t understand, from a purist capitalist point of view, is that any business person that is in the practise of buying government influence to give them a competitive advantage is by definition not a capitalist. Capitalists believe very strongly in free markets and, thereby, free competition.
I think what Matt and John are trying to politely tell me is “Jim, you can’t rewrite history. The words crony and capitalism have been glued together with super glue and you’re not going to change that. We need to come-up with a new term..”. Although I hate to admit defeat on this issue, I must finally concede that I’m fighting a losing battle to convince people not to use the words crony and capitalism together. Matt and John are right.
So, until we come-up with a better term, I’m going to refer to this vile practice as influence peddling/influence buying. Here is my definition:
Influence Peddling/Influence Buying _ Cheating for mutual benefit by high government officials and special interest groups.
For the most part, this type of cheating is perfectly legal. Lobbying is legal and, of course, passing laws, writing regulations and enforcing them are what government officials do. Although this vile practice may be legal, it is most definitely immoral. Every time government does something to benefit some interest group, the rest of us end-up paying out the nose or some other part of our anatomy.
How do we combat this practice? How do we reduce to a minimum the influence available to sell? Conventional wisdom says that conservatives must win control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency and begin the long and painful process of unwinding all the crap that is now a structural part of our government. I can’t argue with this wisdom. However, it does nothing to reduce the potential for influence peddling and the temptations will always be great.
Is there nothing we can do to reduce the influence that government officials have at their disposal to peddle? I’m going to go waaaaaaaaaaaaay out on the proverbial limb here and suggest something radical to at least reduce the collusion between government and big business.
I haven’t figured out how to do anything about things like tariff policy or about subsidies other than by te conventional wisdom mentioned above. But maybe there is something we could do about the salable influence that government has over taxes and regulatory policy.
It’s no secret that corporations and businesses in this country carry a heavy burden of federal taxes and cost for regulatory compliance, which they must reflect in the price for their products. .This is a big part of the reason that American businesses are not as competitive as they could be in world markets and is a major influence on companies to move their production off shore. Ironically, because these costs are reflected in the price of their products it is we the consumers that end up paying these costs. The companies only act as a tax collecting service for our government.
So, if we are already paying all these cost in one way or the other, why don’t we make it official and eliminate the middle-man. If we believe that ours is, or rather should be, a government of ,by, and for the people; then we the people should be willing to pay for the cost for what we ask government to do. For example, we ask government to protect us from foreign aggression and we willingly pay the cost of our military. What is different then when we ask the government to protect us ,for example, from industry pollution? Shouldn’t we be willing to pay for the costs incurred in protecting us? As stated above, we do in the end pay these costs. All I’m suggesting is to allow businesses to be reimbursed for their audited compliance costs so that these cost don’t have to be reflected in the price of their products.
My idea is that the federal government should be funded 100% by a flat sales tax with exemptions for food, medicine and housing. In this way the tax would fall almost exclusively on discretionary spending. Because the sales tax would also have to cover regulatory compliance costs, the CBO would need to estimate how much the government would need to compensate businesses for their compliance costs.
I know this is a lot to swallow on Thanksgiving Day when you so much more appetising things on your plate. But hey! Don’t blame me. Blame Matt and John. They motivated me. Anyway here are some of the advantages I see for my new tax system:
- The influence that government officials would have to pedle in the area of taxes and regulations would be negligible. The only special interest group affected by these policies would be the public at large.
- American businesses could reduce the prices of their products to reflect their lower costs and, therefore, become more competitive in world markets. Maybe manufacturing could blossom once again in America.
- The idea of government provided heath care could be dealt with a the state level. If the majority of the people in a given state asked for this service, the state government could say okay, here is how much more you will have tp pay in sales tax. Then the people of the state could decide if they really wanted that service at that cost.
- The concept described in No. 3 could be applied to almost every government proposed program or new regulatory scheme.
- For existing programs, such as, Social Security perhaps when people are shown how much of their sales tax goes to support SS, maybe they would be more willing think about a voluntary privatized system such as Chile has had for many years and that has been a resounding success.
- Maybe if each one of us saw on every sales receipt how much our federal government was costing us. we might collectively decide that we want to seriously reduce that cost.
Well, this has dragged-on longer than I intended. If you think I’ve totally lost my mind, don’t be bashful . Let me know. I can take it. I think.