September 21, 2011

On September 12, the Tea Party and CNN collaborated to host a Republican debate. Our governor, Rick Perry, found himself surrounded by fellow conservatives who were more than willing to “mess with Texas.” Personally, I do not like Rick Perry’s policies or personality so I was content to watch Rep. Bachmann and Gov. Romney gang up on him.

Michele Bachmann brought up the fact that Perry received campaign contributions from the drug company that profited from his executive order mandating HPV vaccinations in Texas. Gov. Perry’s response was startling, but I feel that the significance eluded many viewers. Perry responded that if Bachmann were implying that he “can be bought for $5,000, then he is offended.” Point: Rick Perry can be bought with enough money! The question is how much money is required and which issues are for sale. Does our governor describe climate change as a hoax perpetuated by scientists who simply want to receive research money because he truly believes this to be the case, or has he been bought by the fossil fuel industry?

Perry said multiple times during the debate that politicians need to be honest with the American people; and I appreciate the governor’s honesty regarding campaign finance. All of our elected officials should be honest about how much money it takes for their votes, or conscience, to be bought. With this sort of transparency, ordinary citizens could at least have a specific dollar figure to aim for if they want to truly compete with corporations and the wealthy to influence their elected officials.

The fact is, all of our politicians can be and often are bought. This used to be “conspiracy theory” talk, but the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which states that under the First Amendment corporations, as “people,” can donate an unlimited amount of money to political campaigns, brings to the surface and legalizes the most corrupt aspect of our political system. We have a political system wherein politicians are bought and if they do not advertise their “products” (policy positions) to the sponsor’s satisfaction, then they are attacked by negative ad campaigns paid for with the same corporate money that put them in office.

The Tea Party is opposed to “big government” and “regulation,” but the corporations already write, propose, and pass pro-corporate and pro-rich legislation at the expense of ordinary, middle-class Americans. The profit motive is what drives the private sector. Ideas of “choice” and “competition” are trumpeted like the Good News. However, there are certain services that should not be driven by the profit motive. The function of government is certainly to create an environment where business can flourish, but the government also exists to protect and empower citizens. This function, the protection and empowerment of citizens, is driven by the people motive rather than the profit motive. I fear that the Tea Party wants to shrink government to the point that protection and empowerment only exist for corporations and the rich.

What would our country be like if everything was governed by the profit motive? Well, as many children who currently have no health care would also receive no education. Our food would not be inspected, our drugs would not be tested, and our water and air would not be protected. The poor and the elderly would not be helped. A country governed entirely by the profit motive would be a country without any morality, compassion, empathy, or sense of interconnectedness. A country governed entirely by the profit motive would be a country that turned away from God. Our politicians have chosen to become puppets. We still have a choice. We have the numbers; all we lack is the will.

 


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