Corrupt politics tend to turn people off from the entire democratic process. Money and access gets things done in Washington D.C. while causing a sense of disenfranchisement among the American public. In many ways the desire to distance oneself from the political realm seems appropriate. Unfortunately, the only real consequence of tuning out is more of the same.
Once in a while you will hear a story about someone getting politically active because an issue impacted them directly. Lance Armstrong and cancer research. Michael J. Fox and stem cell advocacy. It happens to the average American as well. But the point is that people tend to believe that the political process does not affect them. Add that to the belief we cannot do anything to change political outcomes and we leave ourselves with a system perpetually benefiting the wealthy and well-connected.
Both these beliefs are factually incorrect. Republic Report started a great series of posts by Matt Stoller showing the corrupting influence of money in our political system and how it hurts you as a consumer. Yup, the pocketbook… the checkbook… the bank account… the bottom line… You get the point, it takes its toll and forces us to spend more for services that should cost far less.
In the latest post Stoller laments about the time and hassle it takes everyday Americans to do and file their taxes. Millions utilize tax programs like Intuit’s TurboTax. Stoller takes a jump to connect Intuit’s lobbying expenditures to the hassle and time consumption, but the jump is logical and reasonable.
In some countries, the equivalent of their IRS sends citizens a form listing what they owe. In California, the state has a program called ReadyReturn that lets you do this for California state taxes. You sign it and send it back, and it takes a few minutes. But for most of us, this isn’t how it works. We gather our tax forms and various banking information, and spend the weekend facing a difficult bureaucratic set of forms, hoping we did it all correctly. Or we use a costly tax filing service or software.
Stoller quotes candidate Barack Obama’s pledge to make it easier by doing something similar to California and other nations. It would save citizens 200 million hours of time and $2 billion. A company running tax filing service stands to lose everything with that type of system. They even say so in their investor report, “These or similar programs may be introduced or expanded in the future, which may cause us to lose customers and revenue.” With revenue in danger they lobbied against California’s system and spent more than $7 million since Obama took office (and about the same under Bush).
Those millions of dollars can be for any number of Inuit’s business interests but this direct threat has to be a major portion of their lobbying expenses. Allowing such a system in our politics causes you, the taxpayer and citizen, to pay for a service that many do not need.
In a more intriguing piece Stoller once again notes the cost of corruption in our daily lives. That cell phone bill you pay every month costs a fortune and roughly 80 percent of it comes from the corrupting influence of money and lobbying.
Three Congressmen, Fred Upton (R-MI), Greg Walden (R-OR), and Cliff Stearns (R-FL), received substantial sums of money from Verizon and AT&T. As a result an up and coming company that would endanger the two cell phone carriers’ marketshare found themselves under Congressional investigation and had the FCC revoke a wavier that was needed to do business.
That’s not to say one of the three mentioned above got a briefcase full of cash, called a friend at the FCC, and suddenly the telecom giants got their way. But what did happen is that the two phone companies contributed money to the Congressmen’s campaign and they commenced with pressure in their roles in Congress. Everything then worked out nicely for Verizon and AT&T. Imagine that!
Furthermore, U.S. consumers pay substantially more each month on their cell phone plans. Admittedly, it is difficult to do a direct comparison but the evidence shows a remarkable difference.
Among low-usage (360 calls per year of voice calls, 396 SMS and eight MMS), consumers in the U.S. paid $279.52 while in Denmark it stood at $50.31, Australia at $143.79 and Canada at $195.68. Price differences varied even more between countries for high-usage consumers; Denmark at $182.95, Australia at $370.83, Canada at $ $563.20, while in the U.S. consumers paid $635.85. Only five countries came in higher than that.
Now do you still think it doesn’t matter?
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.