Sunday, August 6, 2017

Defining the Swamp



The Swamp can be defined in simple terms. The Swamp has always been there. What is important is how egregious and detrimental the Swamp has become.

Private interests versus public interests
In our democracy, the voters elect their lawmakers, and the lawmakers are supposed to serve the interests of their constituencies.

Most particularly the lawmakers are not supposed to put their private interests ahead of the interests of their constituencies.

Lawmakers are human beings and have private interests like all human beings, including desires for money, power, social standing, sex, esteem, and recognition.

Lawmakers are constantly in circumstances in which they can advance their private interests at the expense of the interests of their constituents.

Sometimes there are competing interests within a lawmaker's constituency, and a lawmaker may be confronted with having to vote in favor of the interest of one group and against the interest of another group. This is not in and of itself swampy, but it can be swampy if the lawmaker's private interests are played on by a group to get the lawmaker to favor the group.

The public seeks to have safeguards that protect against lawmakers acting to serve their private interests ahead of the public interest.

Safeguards
One safeguard is to limit or prohibit lawmakers from having commercial interests which can be affected favorably by how a lawmaker votes or by other action the lawmaker takes in his official capacity.  While it is not impossible for a lawmaker in a conflict of interest situation to put the public interest ahead of his or her private interest, that is a hard thing to know for sure about, and the safeguard tool of limiting or prohibiting conflicts of interest is a prophylactic measure so that a conflict of interest does not exist.

"Transparency" is also extremely helpful to enable the public to protect itself against lawmakers choosing to advance their private interests at the expense of the public interest.

The Swamp
The safeguards the public has are very inadequate.

One realm of great inadequacy currently is that of campaign finance.

Politicians have great personal desires to win elections and stay in office, and this frequently outweighs the motivation to serve the public interest.

The current reality is that it takes a great deal of money to conduct a political election campaign, there are big donors and small donors, and a politician is at great risk of getting large donations from big donors in exchange for being willing to do things the large donors want.

Very frequently "doing what large donors want" is not justifiable in a bona fide exercise by the lawmaker of his obligation to "serve the public interest." There is a "quid pro quo" aspect that cannot be admitted under a "transparency" standard, and hence much obfuscation goes on that keeps the public from knowing how a lawmaker's personal desire to get funds to get reelected was put ahead of doing what is best for the "public" interest.

Throw into the "campaign finance" problem the immense exacerbation resulting from the lobbyist regime in Washington DC, and also that of "one sided special interests". These are egregious feeders to the politicians' needs for lots of money to win and keep elected office.

This detrimental situation is compounded by how the regulatory apparatus in Washington is availed of. While regulating can serve public interests, there is a great risk of over-regulation, which enables the lobbyists and one sided special interests to obtain greater funding from the regulated parties who need to defend against excessive regulatory reach into their activities.

Throw in regulators who earn their income from doing regulating and who enjoy the power that comes from being able to regulate others. Such regulators can be very accommodating to lobbyists and one sided special interests which seek funding that can be funneled to the politicians and which desire overly excessive regulation to stimulate the flow of funds.

If the above description is starting to sound like the Swamp, it is indeed the Swamp.

Strange
Strange is a manifestation of the Swamp in two publicized ways currently.

A. Strange and McConnell
Mitch McConnell is very enamored of the powerful position he has in Washington. To keep the position, he needs Senators who will back him. Mitch McConnell has at his disposal lots of funds that can be used to help someone like Luther Strange.
Luther Strange needs the money to do his TV and radio advertising to win the 2017 special election. Luther Strange will do what Mitch McConnell wants in order to get McConnell's funds.
The extent to which Mitch McConnell and Luther Strange can justify themselves and justify what they will endeavor to do in Congress as being best for the American people is problematic. Possibly they are failing and will fail to try to do what is best for the American people, and are largely acting only to serve their personal desires of being and staying a powerful person in Washington DC or being United States Senator from Alabama.
The campaign finance Swamp of McConnell and Strange is impenetrable to the public eye and is an unknown detriment to the interests of the American people in having Congress work properly for them.

B. Strange and the Superfund bribe
The Swamp includes outright bribery and doing the maximum to keep it hidden from public. Even apart from the outright bribery, there are questions about campaign contributions from Drummond to Strange improperly influencing his actions as Alabama Attorney General. As stated, campaign finance is a chief cause of the Swamp being egregious and detrimental. Anything Strange says is suspect, and his talking about draining the Swamp is pathetic. (For more info, see Source: State Rep. was offered superfund bribe with Luther Strange present.)

Trump
Trump campaigned hard about the Swamp and draining the Swamp.

To me, it has come clear that this was just a ploy to get elected, and Trump does not really care about draining the Swamp.

Further I think Trump has become the biggest Swamp Creature, in large part because of his claiming an exemption for his conflicts of interest.

In support of the foregoing, I refer you to these three blog entries: A Trump speech - NOT; #crookederthanHillary; and Trump Inc.

The #alsen candidates
For a digest of how the #alsen candidates are addressing the Swamp, see Washington Swamp.

Can the Swamp be drained?
I believe the Swamp has become egregious and very detrimental for the country. I believe the essence of the Swamp is a money monster that is out of control and overwhelming in politics. The country is unable to find a way to corral the money monster. Until a way is found to corral the money monster, the Swamp will stay egregious and detrimental for the country.

The #alsen candidates are talking palaver about draining the Swamp. They fail to articulate what the Swamp is, and their suggestions about draining it are laughable.