In the forgettable movie, An Indecent Proposal, Robert Redford offers Woody Harrelson $1 million to sleep with Demi Moore. In our politics, the indecent proposal is that our politicians are offered millions to screw us. Let’s say no, and walk away.
The latest revelation from the 2012 campaign trail is that Mitt Romney is rich. Actually, that’s not sufficiently descriptive. He’s filthy rich. Scrooge McDuck rich. Brewster’s Millions rich. Doctor Evil rich. Not Trumpian, but he’s comfortable. All Americans below his income level are envious, and now that his tax returns are public record, we know how envious we really should be.
Of course, while Romney is channeling Thurston Howell III, he is not alone on the debate stage representing the 1%-ers. Newt Gingrich is Tiffany comfortable. We have learned that Newt (his company) was paid $25,000 per month for services as a historian for Freddie Mac. If Newt doesn’t think he was paid for who he knows instead of what he knows, he knows nothing, you know? Most history professors would write a series of full length books on the history of world housing for Freddie for the princely sum of $25,000. $25,000 buys a lot of tweed blazers at the campus bookstore. History lessons are free on Wikipedia. Congressmen and Senators cell phone numbers are in Newt’s Rolodex.
President Obama, best-selling author and spouse of successful corporate attorney Michelle, is not a 99%-er. He wasn’t living in the same neighborhoods he was organizing. Low net worth individuals need not apply for a place in the halls of government. That is sad but true.
The existence of all these wealthy pols flies in the face of the dreams of our forefathers who envisioned a government made up of a motley collection of Joe the Plumbers, driven only by their love of country and lack of anything else to do. It is not practical given the size of our country and our modern problems to expect someone to milk the cows before dawn and entertain the dairy lobby at night.
At the risk of shattering the mythology of the rags to riches candidates taking turns as President, the Founding Fathers by and large were 1%-ers in their day. Have you been to George and Martha’s compound? They had a sweet piece of real estate right there on the Potomac, on the good side. It’s the Graceland of American politics. Jefferson had a cozy little crib at Monticello, too. Money helped, even 250 years ago. Money was the political plantation master, then and now.
Let’s be honest. Despite the heroic efforts of some well-intentioned urban campers with drums, money will remain the driving force in our politics and therefore our government policymaking for the foreseeable future. The best we can hope for is transparency. We deserve to know from whence the money comes so we can decide for ourselves what influence it might buy.
Unfortunately, nothing creates more clutter and less clarity than a tsunami of transparency. We could drown in transparency. Telling the average citizen that full disclosure of all campaign money sources is on the Internet is no answer. I mean, who has time to surf the Internet for facts? There’s a You Tube video of a squirrel in a paper bag out there somewhere, and we’ve got to find it.
So let’s clothe transparency with some simplicity. I recommend that our politicians follow the model of the NASCAR driver. We know who sponsors Danica Patrick. It’s GoDaddy.com. It’s right there on the front of her skin tight coverall, and we can see her in the uncut video version with a few clicks of the mouse. It’s time for our politicians to wear similarly obvious corporate logos on their clothing, although we can dispense with the skin tight requirement. Financial transparency, yes; Newt Gingrich in a skin tight one piece, no. (When it comes to Newt, I don't need to see "what happens next.")
Even future debate answers would demonstrate the new commitment to financial disclosure:
Newt on the economy: “As Capital One put it so succinctly, ‘What’s in your wallet?’ Not enough! It’s time we join Apple and its brand of innovative products and dare to ‘Think Different’ on this issue. I favor a Fox News ‘Fair and Balanced’ approach to economic growth. As your candidate, I ask you, just as America’s premier home improvement company Lowe’s asks you – ‘Let’s build something together’. 'You’ll be in good hands’, with Newt…and with Allstate.”
Ron Paul, trying to interject a comment during the debate: “…Can you hear me now?”
Mitt Romney, on tax policy: “I would propose a plan much like American Express – 1% cash back on every dollar of personal income tax paid. We’ll be the ‘country that pays you back’. And taxpayers would earn points, for travel, entertainment, college tuition, and parkway toll credits. Romney – don’t leave home without me.”
NASCAR fans are never left to wonder who footed the bill for Darrell Waltrip’s overhead cam or Tony Stewart’s dual exhaust. Now the voting public will know which corporate sponsors are responsible for our politicians’ exhausts, without the inconvenience and monotony of reading.
I think my plan makes more sense than driving around in a circle making left turns all day, don’t you?