Let’s Stop Fretting Over Money in Politics, and Talk About the Money in Bureaucracy

Rarely has there been a more surreal spectacle than Hillary Clinton, proprietor of a shadowy syndicate that funnels millions in a variety of currencies into her maze of accounts, complaining about how there’s too much “money in politics.” It’s actually rather impressive there is any money left over for anyone else, after the Clintons are finished looting charities and auctioning off government policy to the highest bidder.

The scariest thing Clinton apologists have said during her unpleasant campaign is that everyone in politics does what Bill and Hill do, usually on a somewhat less grandiose scale. The scary thing is that they have a point. Hillary Clinton is a grotesque funhouse-mirror magnification of a problem found on both sides of the aisle.

Recent news events furnished us with a fine bipartisan example: former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, who somehow parlayed a fairly modest government paycheck into an $8 million fortune, of which he was willing to spend some $3.6 million to hush up sexual indiscretions. The only real problem our government system had with any of this is that Hastert withdrew the hush money in unacceptably small, “structured” amounts.

Complaining about “money in politics” is pointless, and usually hypocritical. As with nearly every other “standard” it claims to hold, the Left uses such crusades as a weapon against its enemies. When they complain about money in politics, they don’t mean theirs. They still routinely invoke the Koch Brothers as the archdevils of excessive political money, even though they don’t rank in the top 20 list of donors. Also, unlike some other millionaire political players, they don’t hire mercenary armies to burn down cities.

It’s no surprise that worshipers of Big Government stubbornly refuse to believe their religion is inherently, irredeemably corrupt… but it is. There are no big, clean governments. As long as political influence is the most valuable resource in the land, there will always be buyers. As Hillary Clinton amply demonstrates, no matter how many campaign finance laws we pass, influence-peddlers will always find “perfectly legal” ways to get paid. There are some proposals out there for barring politicians from taking lobbyist jobs or collecting Clinton-style “speaking fee” payoffs, but I doubt the constitutionally-acceptable ideas would be very effective. Graft would simply find new holes in the good-government dam, as it always does.

The real problem is the money in bureaucracy, not the money in politics. A great deal of what the Leviathan State does is effectively beyond the reach of our elected representatives anyway, as Big Government junkies themselves attest when they boast of how various programs can never be cut back or repealed.

The volume of rules and policies promulgated by regulators far outstrips the volume of laws passed by legislators. A single page of law can easily become ten pages of regulations. Bureaucrats routinely use their “discretion” to increase their power – the EPA is currently in the process of granting itself regulatory authority over puddles, ditches, and “waterways” that don’t have any water in them. They also use “discretion” to conveniently exempt the well-connected from expensive regulations. A favorite game played at the nexus of Big Government and Big Business is the imposition of regulatory schemes that crush small players and upstart market competitors, while imposing bearable costs on established titan companies with high-powered lobbying operations.

The bureaucracy maintains an elaborate system of pipelines chugging taxpayer money into the pockets of favored corporations, and the Democrat Party itself. For example, as Kevin Williamson of National Review pointed out, the Transportation Security Agency may have a 95 percent failure rate at its ostensible mission to detect terrorist bombs, but it excels at pumping money into Democrat coffers through the American Federation of Government Employees.

Our cancerous bureaucracy doesn’t just loot us, it’s actively at war against us. One of the things our Ruling Class most reliably does with any power it obtains is use that power to create crises it can exploit for even more power. ObamaCare’s planned failure will be used to demand socialized medicine, and when that day comes, the private insurance market will have been so thoroughly trashed that the notion of “going back” to private insurance will be treated as inconceivable.

Immigration policy is another example. By abusing its authority and conveniently ignoring its duty to protect American citizenship, the State has reshaped its electorate. It’s supposed to work the other way in a democracy, isn’t it? We’re now told that we must inexorably submit to policies most American citizens would never agree to, because the “facts on the ground” have been changed by ushering millions of illegals into the country, often in flagrant defiance of the law.

Money in bureaucracy also leads to ridiculous levels of “mission creep.” The last thing agencies want to do is complete their nominal mission with a budget surplus. Instead, they use their money and manpower to expand their authority, plowing millions into ridiculous studies and frivolous initiatives, then whine to Congress that they don’t have the resources to handle their core duties.

There are no consequences for failing to complete those duties. Nobody gets fired. One of the most common “punishments” in Washington is paid administrative leave. As long as the Leviathan State is swimming in enough cash to use paid vacations as a “punishment,” there will never be any real accountability.

The ocean of taxpayer trillions surging through Washington is also the reason nothing is ever really done about “waste, fraud, and abuse” in big-ticket programs. There is simply no incentive to do anything about them.  On the contrary, the administrators of welfare programs are happy to boast that they have plenty of “clients” who depend on the programs for their very lives. Putting serious muscle behind an effort to weed fraudulent clients off those rolls is actually counter-productive for the bureaucracy, because unlimited funding means no one really suffers due to waste and abuse.

And if you dare to fight back against the bureaucracy and challenge the power it has already taken… well, you can ask Lois Lerner of the IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Division what happens then.

The IRS scandal is a powerful example of how power and money are inherently corrupting forces. It was inevitable that our tax system would be perverted into a political weapon. There’s too much compulsive force, too much valuable data, built into a system that demands micro-surveillance of our economic activity to comply with insanely complex tax laws. That system cannot be reformed by making the tax laws 10 or 20 percent simpler… and even that minimal level of reform is dismissed as impossible by defenders of the current indefensible system.

Complaining about money in politics, when money in bureaucracy is the real problem, is like complaining about the sharks who show up to eat the truckloads of chum you keep tossing in the ocean. It’s a dramatic misunderstanding of cause and effect. The sharks aren’t really the problem – they’re just following their nature. Likewise, those who piously refuse to purchase political influence will get steamrolled by the people who do.

This is one of the reasons the Tea Party movement got off the ground – its partisans were people who just wanted to live their lives and tend to their business, but found it was no longer possible to avoid the notice of a ravenous political system. People who had never been politically active before in their lives felt compelled to join the game, because it was the only way to preserve their way of life.

The only reliable way to get money out of politics is to change the game so politics isn’t so damn profitable. The defining feature of private enterprise is that it’s voluntary. When it threatens to become involuntary – through anti-competitive practices or fraud – we expect government to intervene. Who intervenes when government is the anti-competitive enforcement operation, or the con artist? Why is anyone surprised that big-money interests are so eager to purchase the one thing private industry cannot legally manufacture: compulsive force?

Wring the money out of bureaucracy, and you’ll be amazed how much cleaner our politics become, how deeply the administrators of government programs suddenly become concerned about waste and abuse, how much more focused agencies become on fulfilling their essential duties, and how much respect the State begins to show for the taxpayers it regards with increasingly undisguised contempt.


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