Guest Post: Fix America? Fix the Politicians

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Dylan Ratigan

Fix America? Fix the Politicians

Today we end Fix It week on my show, although we hope to keep this
recurring theme. But the largest hindrance to solutions for all of the
problems we've discussed - be it the Deficit,
Energy, Education or the Wars -- goes back to one place: the current
Political Process in our country.

We practically all share the same list of problems, regardless of
ideology: The undue influence of moneyed interest, the focus on inane
Culture Wars instead of proper governance, the low quality of our
politicians coupled with their high incumbency rates, the lack of ethics,
disclosure etc. The only question left is how to fix them and then, how
do we muster the will?

These are the questions we will address for my entire show today -
and just to get the ball rolling, here are four of my favorite


I don't have to explain to anyone why we need to fix the campaign
finance system. The question is how do we do it fairly. Publicly
financed campaigns are one solution, but they seem to go against our
very nature as Americans. After all, who wants to be forced into having
their tax money going to politicians they don't like? Meanwhile,
infringing on the amounts people can donate gives an advantage to wealthy candidates. But I think there is pretty
easy solution to this:

I propose that we make a law that charges 100% fee on all political
spending, with the that fee going into a public campaign financing fund
that given solely to candidates with low campaign coffers on a per
petition signature basis. This means that if a well-moneyed candidate
like Barack Obama wants to spend $740 million of campaign donations, $370 million
of that can go to his campaign and the other half to public campaign fund.

Even better, if a wealthy person like Michael Bloomberg wants to
spend $108 million of his fortune trying to get elected,
half goes to other, less-moneyed candidates. As far as those "poorer"
candidates go, the more valid petition signatures they have, the more
money they should get from the fund.

In addition to curtailing the power of the dollar in elections, this
would especially help new candidates take advantage of modern marvels
like social networking etc. to jumpstart a serious challenge to
more-moneyed opponents.

And if you don't want your money going to candidates you don't like,
then don't get in to the game in the first place.


It is a sad state of affairs when corporations, who clearly don't
work for us, are forced to disclose more to than Politicians who do (or at
least are paid by us). We need to put the legal onus on Politicians to
disclose every single potential conflict of interest, be it an invite to a
BBQ or getting their nephew a job with a contractor. This means that if
it could in any conceivable way be considered a conflict, it's on them
to disclose it even if there is no specific rule against it. Then, if
they are found being negligent of material disclosure, they need to be
fired, fined and possibly jailed.

Finally, this information MUST be updated weekly into open-source
searchable databases. There is no shortage of smart, patriotic Americans
who can take it from there.


The revolving
door from Politics to corresponding positions of undue influence in
the private sector has to be stopped. There needs to be a seven year
cooling off period for all Politicians, staffers and regulators from
working in any related industry or lobbying their former colleagues.

While this might sound draconian, ask yourself, do you really think
we are getting high quality public servants with the current incentive
structure? I am betting we will get much more capable public servants
once we hinder their ability to get rich off of their service.


As far as I can tell, at this point the major differences in the
traditional Political Parties has basically become their stance on gay
marriage - and even that looks pretty similar once they are in power.
Both like to give away money they don't have and are unwilling to stand
up to the special interests that fund them.

Furthermore, the false choice of "Republican" or "Democrat" is
keeping some of the best candidates from making it to the general
election. If politicians want to align themselves into two Political
Parties, that is their right. But the government shouldn't allow them
to hold separate primaries. Hopefully this recent move to open
primaries in California will take off across the country.

The question now is how do we get these same complicit politicians to
make the fundamental changes that we need to the system. My hope is
that in the coming years, we will see more and more people deciding that
they have had enough and will enter into the political spectrum or push
their neighbors and friends to do so.

Also, I am waiting patiently for serious candidates in the United
States to sign a legally binding contract guaranteeing that they will
support initiatives like the ones outlined above. Don't laugh, it's
already on its way across the pond.

Politicians held personally liable for breaking their promises to the
voter? That's change we all could believe in.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Gromit's picture

As Paul Volcker said the other day, our major problem is governance.

Representative oligarchy worked for the Romans for 600 something years, then became impractical. Caesar seized dictatorial power in forty BC, and Rome NEVER returned to the Republic.

The good news is.....the Roman Empire prospered in some diminished form for some 300 something years after reaching the peak of its power.

Sudden Debt's picture

The only reason why government don't want to sack people in government jobs is because those people vote for them. If they would sack them, they risk of losing votes.

It's that simple!

Gromit's picture

Well yes this is the problem we face in California.

Maybe 30% depend directly or indirectly on government pension largesse.

50 %  pay no taxes and don't have any interest in the pension funding issue.


mkkby's picture

It's also the reason why they won't police the borders.  They're all afraid to upset the hispanic vote.

I assume the person junking you is a gov employee sucking our blood.

ZackAttack's picture

Which is a scary thought in its own right - Romans looking back on 'the good old days' of Caligula and Nero as we will Bush and Obama.

AnAnonymous's picture

It also corresponded with the Roman empire achieving a wave of expansion.


This expansion card is no longer in the US hand: has already been thrown on the table.

Crisismode's picture

Given contemporary technology, communications, and population levels, things are happening at a much faster rate of speed than they ever did in Roman times.


Their 300 year decline is probably 30 years in todays timeframe.



Papasmurf's picture

I would say thirty months and the clock started running sixteen months ago.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Rhetoric! Pure rhetoric.

The system is too well entrenched for anything except, system failure.

These are squid spawn people, what do you expect?

Plus they have a hydra gene (it seems).

In addition, they were born coated with teflon.

Fixing the politicians is fixing the effects.

Go to the cause, simple tweak, everything can change.



Rebel's picture

The truth is that fixing the elected officials does not fix the problem. For every elected official in government, there are countless thousands of non-elected, entrenched bureaucrats, masters of protecting their fiefdom. The only way to fix the system is to cut off the oxygen supply. A constitutional amendment can be passed by state conventions, without congress. Passing a constitutional amendment through state conventions REQUIRING an absolute, no games, balanced budget, not matter what, would be a start. 

serendipitous_one's picture

Add to this a 2 term maximum for all senators and congressmen, and I think you have a good start. 

Sean7k's picture

Nice post. 

As to parties, this needs only the efforts of the people to resolve. Never vote for a party candidate of any party in any election. If we start electing politicians of independent, non-party affiliation, we make it more difficult to organize and restrict the process to approved candidates that owe their party for their election.

Further, it would break up the two party committee system which is where the real power resides in congress and might actually dilute the use of committees.

Finally, End the FED. This one act will do more to empower Americans than every other action combined.

Thoreau's picture

You can't sever corruption from politics; but you can sever heads from the politicians.

StychoKiller's picture

Ancient Greek Method of legislating:

"Anyone wishing to propose a new law had to do so while standing on a public platform with a rope around their neck. If the law was passed, the rope was removed. If the law was voted down, the platform was removed."


Rick64's picture

The solutions are easy, implementing them is the hard part.

Duuude's picture



If They're In They're Out


Reductio ad Absurdum's picture

Suggestion 4 is absolutely correct. Why on earth do political parties even exist? Just let each candidate run on his own merits.

Suggestions 1-3 are idiotic; we don't need more government micromanagement of things, including elections. Suggestion 3 should be changed to "make lobbying illegal." In general things should be fixed by making a system that is self-regulating (through checks and balances), not by creating endless lists of rules that everyone is supposed to know and follow and that the government tries in vain to enforce.

dryam's picture

Is there an ultrashort of America etf fund?

MarketFox's picture


This alone would remedy 99% of the poly private/public "real money" higher paying jobs revolving door....particularly with respect to the largest money core...the SEC and the banks...IBs....


However the number one issue should be TAX STRUCTURE CHANGE...

Now that the interest rate manipulation and other bullets have already been fired in the face of flawed economic thinking....perhaps it is time for the "horse to be aligned in front of the cart it is pulling"....

No sector knows better that at the heart of the matter is cumulative private side valuation increases along with its better distribution....

This means adhering to the basic formula....

Debt + Income = Valuation

One should note ...that the current administration has only made the equation more negative...

One must agree that a bigger...better distributed economy would be more favorable than a shrinking supposed economic needs rise....

The increase in private side valuation is the ONLY viable solution.

This means that taxes and legal largesse must be altered such that business formation and duration is of the most importance....

This means the complete removal of the individual and corporate income be replaced with a singular 15% consumption tax....5% to the Fed....10% to the state....

Actually it should be mandated that never again can taxes/govt. exceed 15% of the be more than a 15% part of overall prices....


economicmorphine's picture

I'm sorry, but this is just populist tripe.  Our politicians are a reflection of the morals of our our people.  We do, after all, elect them.  We bleat like stuck pigs when we lose personal material comfort.  Other than that, we by and large don't care.  By we, I mean collectively, us as a people.

Our corporations are no better.  Banks pressure government to toss accounting rules because they don't benefit them.   Apple outsources iPads to a factory with a draconian record and pretends it's a hip, compassionate country as the stock soars and people line up to buy.  What, exactly, does Mr. Ratigan expect of the type of government such people would choose?

AnAnonymous's picture

This implies the US people has benefited from their government. While obviously true, that is not very popular.

Carl Marks's picture

Indeed. The problem lies not in our politicians but in ourselves. They are a mere reflection of us. If we had bound ourselves to the Constitution, we could have avoided much angst, but we opted for comfort instead.

StychoKiller's picture

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. — Benjamin Franklin

Dicite justitiam's picture

I agree.

Ratigan assumes a duality where there is none.  The duality he assumes is that there is an us and a them.  There are the poor quality politicians, high incumbency rates, and the corrupting influence of wealth and power.  Then there are the steadfast souls who champion integrity, honesty, and good will.  This is the assumed duality--correct me if this is not a central premise.  I think any such duality requires an arbitrary division at some level of power.  Since the distribution of power among individuals is continuous, how can we say that there exists one level of power that determines whether you are an "us" or a "them"?

The system we see is the natural evolution of self-interest and ability.  Every player in this drama is playing a role written out by their own interests and incentives (nice to see CD reminding us of this--I actually have 'interests & incentives' tattooed on my forehead because I think it's the correct approach to understand virtually any human exchange).

There is no us and them.  We are witnessing a system of autonomous parties serving their own self interests.  Power accrues to those with the will and ability to seize it. There is a distribution of power and it is likely to have Pareto-like properties (definitely so if wealth is the dominant factor in determining power; but this is beyond my ken).  The alpha parameter of this distribution probably has a tendency to increase (e.g. CEO pay scales have gone from 40x to 400x avg. employee, this would be shown in a Pareto distribution with an original alpha of maybe 2, but the current pay distribution would maybe have an alpha of 5 (these alphas are for argument sake)).  [Note: you could say the CEO is a "them" and an avg. worker is an "us", that's pretty clear--but there remains the issue of choosing an arbitrary level of power that is the dividing point.] 

It is obvious that the alpha cannot increase indefinitely, unless it is at an eternally slow rate--the boiling frog rate.  But the rate is not that slow (we witness dramatic changes in our own lifetimes).  But we have not shown that it is monotonically increasing, and CEO pay is just one part of the overall power/tyranny distribution.  Is there proof that tyranny is monotonically increasing?

We will see shifts in our government only when the natural course of this collection of interests and incentives dictates such shifts.  In the 234 years since we framed this system of governance, the presence of tyranny in our government could be fairly characterized as a monotonically increasing phenomenon (again, I state this without proof), which implies the direction must be toward fewer liberties.  At some point this will severely conflict with the interests of enough people so that we might expect a rebellion or revolt or disruption.  But if the alpha of the tyranny distribution is so very high--that is, if power is so concentrated in so few entities, would that not require chaos in proportion to the alpha of the distribution?  I wish I had a gallery of sleuths to unravel these mysteries...

It would be a worthwhile exercise to measure the change in alphas of various power/tyranny distriubtions over the ages.

Gully Foyle's picture



"Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. Fuck Hope.'"

IQ 145's picture

 Is this copyrighted ? I'm putting it on a Tee shirt, immediately. "The public sucks, Fuck Hope." Perfect.

Darth Vader's picture

Good article and true to a word.  While your at it could you come down under and shoot i mean fix a few of our pollies too.  They all appear to have the same ailment.

IQ 145's picture

 You need some cancer patients that you can train as snipers.

lynnybee's picture


grunion's picture

Have a lottery, like the one used for the draft. Substitute it for the primary process. Everyone would be subject and cannot refuse service.

You would have to keep your day job and enforced term limits would keep you from getting too comfortable.

It would work.

grunion's picture

Have a lottery, like the one used for the draft. Substitute it for the primary process. Everyone would be subject and cannot refuse service.

You would have to keep your day job and enforced term limits would keep you from getting too comfortable.

It would work.

Cheddar Bob's picture

Agreed.  I'm not sure of the exact mechanics but only this will ever give a chance of disinterested advocacy and policy.

Those who would lead (read as: rule) should AUTOMATICALLY be disqualified from doing so.

Pegasus Muse's picture

"Politicians held personally liable for breaking their promises to the voter? That's change we all could believe in."

The guillotine is an effective deterrent.

Joe Shmoe's picture

I like the sentiments in the article.  Thanks for posting.  But, I have to agree with ORI.  I don't think government will ever reform itself without significant collapse forcing it to happen.  In my state, we have such bloated bureaucracies at every level.  Near bankruptcy has been the impetus for change.  It's so absurd watching unions (teachers, firefighters, police, etc.) fight tooth and nail against contributing 5% to healthcare costs when the rest of the state is imploding.  

I don't expect see reasonable people hashing this mess out.  I expect fiscal trauma to be the only viable lever.  Bring it on.

ATM's picture

I've got an even better solution. It isn't the current brand of politicians that are the only problem but the constant wave of politicians that have entrenched intot he system millions of laws that are compete and utter bullshit.

The solution, wipe the slate clean. Everything other than the Constitution gets wiped off the books in one fell swoop and all policitiancs get wiped off the books as well. Perhaps we should do it as Jefferson thought it ould happen - every 20 years or so.

The longer government legislates the more power it acquires and the less that remains with the people. So out wit the alphabet agencies, out witht he tax code, out with all the rest and we simply start over witht he framework set in place that is still the best ever created and if the current politicians don't like it, and they won't off with their heads! 

bigdumbnugly's picture

i think you are as close to it as anyone, ATM, certainly closer to it than Ratigan.

like there haven't been crooked pols throughout the last 100 years or something - as if this is a new phenomenon or something.  Hacking away at the branches instead of the trunk just perpetuates the situation we're in, and creates more of the same - just a little bit revised.

but even you know "throwing everything out but the constitution" is a pipe dream too.  Too bad, because in 2,000 or so less pages than the health care bill it outlines everything.

maybe with advances in dna we can someday clone madison and jefferson and adams and turn it all back over to the architects.

IQ 145's picture

 I have been amazed reading this so far and seeing that people will try to analyze the situation and not understand that the "alphabets" are ninety percent of the problem. De-fund the EPA, DEA, DHS, FDA, DOE, DHE, CIA, UN, and rent out the building, we don't want them here.

proLiberty's picture

Socialism is based on the fraudulent bargain that we each can live at the expense of others if only we would allow others to live at our expense.   It can only be sustained by force.  It cannot deliver the goods.  In the extreme, it is a system of death, as we see today in North Korea.

The only economic system that is peaceful and respectful of the rights of all participants is free exchange.


IQ 145's picture

 That's all very nice; but observe that the reason we have a mad woman at the EPA claiming that atmospheric CO2 is a danger to human health, is that we failed enforce the Constitution. These "agencys" exist so that congress persons can "express" themselves and not be responsible for the consequences. It's not acceptable to have a non-elected Czar dictating Federal law to the Country. You're sitting here in a country that has a "Dept. of Homeland Security", for chrisakes, and you're in some doubt as to what's wrong ? The creation of Federal Agencys is unconstitutional. and they topgether with that horrifying group of mad world governance faschists, the UN are ninety percent of the problem. They need to go away.

Lndmvr's picture

One problem with term limits would be more people with thier hands in the pension jar. At least with some in office a long time theres not increase in number of claiments. Now, if we stripped office holders of any benifits outside of thier time in office, the amount of sleaze may wind down.

IQ 145's picture

 The constitution requires that the congress critturs live under the same laws they pass; the very first response to Federal Health Care meddling was for Congress to pass legislation for their very own health plan; such that they would not live under the law they might create. Enforce the constitution; it'l give the congress critturs something to thing about.

divide_by_zero's picture

Fairly hypocritical Ratigan talking about culture wars when he's neck deep in them at MSNBC. As far as the Prop 14 "Open Primaries" initiative that passed here in Cali, it also elminates thru certification pretty much everything but the R's and D's and will institutionalize what we already have here at the state level, but will try to make them "look" non-partisan like local elections. This has led to domination of most govt by public employee candidates.

It would be better to have a national/state/local version of the Hatch Act(which got weakened over the years at the national level) to prevent the positive feedback that occurs when public employee unions are allowed virtually unlimited funding in elections.

As far as revolving doors go, non-compete employment clauses have proven to be virtually unenforceable, better to just ban the practice outright. In fact, just ban all the current lobbying altogether.


bugs_'s picture

Supply of labor goes up every day.

Econ 101.

Trifecta Man's picture

First i think you need to put a stop to growing government spending.  New legislation is needed that will nullify all future expenditure increases.   Next the government must enact spending cuts.  Some suggestions:  remove the military from overseas operations; no bailouts;  eliminate government guarantees on loans.  Get radical and reduce every law to 1000 words or less, permanently.  It's these long worded laws that allow all the loopholes that campaign contributors expect in return.

And do something to eliminate fiat currency FRNs.  We need honest money with intrinsic value.

snowball777's picture


This might help, but would still leave the deep pockets ahead in the long might just create more vitriolic campaigns (twice the negative ads).

I don't think you can truly fix campaign finance without simply reducing the amount spent on campaigns period and keeping aggregators and corporations out of it is the best way to guarantee the integrity of the process.



They generally do disclose everything (the occasional golf trip or nepotism aside) and it's current Fed law that they're required to (ask Ted Stevens). Enforcement is another matter (also ask Ted Stevens).




"I am betting we will get much more capable public servants once we hinder their ability to get rich off of their service."

Not sure how you'll improve their ability to serve the public by pushing qualified candidates into the private sector, but perhaps honest and less qualified public servants would be a good. Either way, this is tangential to the campaign finance issues.



Allow 3rd parties a viable shot at the prize (ala #1) and this particular Kabuki becomes passe.


Bitch Tits's picture

Consider this: in 1790, the population was 3.9 million and there were 93 members of Congress. Since then, the population has gone up 100X that number but the members of Congress have only gone up by a little more than 5X that number.

The concentration of power never works for anyone other than those in power.

A Nanny Moose's picture

indeed. Fixing this, and the 17th amendment should be priorities.

bruiserND's picture

The only thing that will fix it is anarchy.

When the streets of America run with blood is when it will be cleansed.