Vermont Public Radio Commentary
INTRO: As our Independence Day holiday approaches, commentator Rick Hubbard suggests we ask ourselves an important question related to the founding of our country, and then think about its implications.
As we the people gather together in remembrance this Fourth of July, it’s a good time to ask ourselves this simple question: How well are my individual interests, and our collective interests, being represented today by our Washington politicians?
It’s an important question, because the issue of improper representation is the main reason we declared our independence from Great Britain in 1776, fought a war, and founded our country. The original settlers of America had come to feel that, in levying taxes on the colonists, King George the 3rd was representing his own interests, and those of his wealthy trading company backers, without properly considering the interests of American colonists.
So when our founders gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft our original Constitution, they were very sensitive to this issue of improper representation.
During their debate, this question emerged. What if we set up a new form of government and, at some future time, a majority of the people feel it’s happening again, and Congress won’t fix it?
Many now argue that time has arrived.
There’s ample documentation that outcomes of legislation, regulations, and policy are often tipped in favor of the interests of wealthy contributors. The minority party in Congress often engages in tactics that promote gridlock in order to hopefully become the majority party, rather than to actually resolve issues important to American citizens.
It’s not enough just to elect good people if they in turn must try to function in a political system structured to provide improper incentives that then often corrupt outcomes. It’s a system problem, and it’s typical of Washington today.
Unfortunately, many in Congress have little incentive to fix things. The present system serves their interests quite well. It provides them with the campaign cash to remain in power, and also serves the interests of their wealthy supporters.
The fundamental problem is that 98% of us don’t contribute a dime directly to any federal political candidate or party. The result is that many in Congress tend to serve the interests of a tiny minority of wealthy contributors rather than the interests of we the people.
And this affects all of us, regardless of whether we are conservative, moderate, liberal or progressive.
We all pay when Congress takes action that enables wealthy economic interests to move money out of our pockets and into theirs. And satisfying the interests of wealthy contributors is evident in practically every major issue considered by Congress these days.
But while most of us can agree we’ve got a significant problem, we’ve barely begun to reach consensus on how to comprehensively repair our political system. And much can go wrong along the way. Solutions can be proposed which appear helpful, but aren’t sufficiently comprehensive to address the underlying problems.
Much discussion and citizen debate will be needed to reclaim our representation, but it goes to the very core of our democracy.
BIO: Rick Hubbard is a native Vermonter, retired attorney, and former economic consultant now living in South Burlington.