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Steve Hansen: Leaders motivated by money leads to corruption

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Posted: Thursday, June 15, 2017 6:00 am

Why does it appear that members in both political parties are out to “get” President Trump?

Why are the vast majority of stories in the national mainstream news media negative toward the president? Why do they promote so-called “scandals” with little or no evidence, while ignoring major positive stories about jobs, the economy and world events?

Colorado Congressman Ken Buck does not address these questions directly in his new book “Drain the Swamp,” but unwittingly, may have provided the answers. Buck claims Washington corruption is far worse than most people think.

The author states that legislative leaders are motivated by one thing: money. They will do just about anything to keep the dollars flowing into political coffers for the purposes of self-interest and re-election. Anyone who gets in the way of these objectives is declared the enemy. Both parties are equally guilty.

Take, for example, important congressional committee assignments. These powerful positions are not delegated to the most qualified but rather to seasoned members who can pay the price. As Buck reveals, the more prestigious the position, the higher the corresponding “contribution.” Deputy Whip is $2.5 million. A conference chair is $5 million, Majority Leader is $10 million and Speaker is $20 million. Other lesser positions require several hundred thousand dollars.

When Buck first arrived in Congress, he was introduced to the “game,” as he calls it.

The congressman was exposed to numerous lobbyists. They were more than happy to have their organizations contribute required “fees” for these coveted positions, if Buck were willing to support their interests in the “Washington game.”

The sad part of this “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” scenario is it’s been happening for years. While the process may be immoral and unethical, it is legal. Funds can be “donated” from those represented by lobbyists to national committees of both parties.

When these committees control millions of dollars, they also influence who receives the benefits. Those willing to play the money game get preference over those who do not.

It’s pretty clear that the “players” are not about to let anyone disrupt a profitable operation. (Is it a coincidence that five of the richest counties in America are located in the Washington, D.C. area?)

Do these facts explain the vitriolic hatred on the part of some for Donald Trump? After all, he is the first president in decades operating as an outsider from crafty congressional games. Connecting the dots, as they say, one can see why Trump may be a threat to many in both parties, as well as the national mainstream news media. All three seem to be part of an elite establishment that enjoy cozy relationships with one another. These can be observed in events such as the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, which the president recently refused to attend.

Buck’s main fear, however, is not the attempted takedown of Trump, but eventual destruction of the country by runaway expenditures.

Presently, he says the U.S. is exceeding a “mind-numbing” $20 trillion in debt and going deeper each day. Right now, every American owes $65,000.

With unfunded liabilities, such as Social Security and Medicare, the debt amounts to more than $90 trillion. Congressman and former economics professor David Brat estimates the United States will be looking at $127 trillion in unfunded liabilities by 2027. Sooner or later under the present mindset, an inevitable collapse will happen.

Members of both parties pay lip service to the problem but actually do nothing to solve it. They throw away taxpayer dollars toward wasteful spending and fund unnecessary projects that will help re-elect them.

Debated issues in the public forum seem to be a sideshow and a distraction from America’s financial situation. Even Trump’s proposed spending plans and tax cuts only theoretically address the issue.

Is Congressman Buck wrong? At this point, no one with any real knowledge of the system is disputing his facts. But as you can imagine, plenty of despicable name-calling is going on. Buck now is shunned by many colleagues in a place that once was known as the “People’s House.”

So, will Congress pass major legislation this year for the benefit of the American people, or will media headlines continue to be dominated by baseless “investigations” going nowhere? If Buck is right, progress only may happen if lobbyists are waiting in the wings and earning their keep with open checkbooks in hand.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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