Support and opposition to Citizens United by political id.
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How We Exacerbate Our Problems
Today’s post reaches both the series climax and midpoint. With that said, it also necessitates a preface. This post is dangerous for my political career because what I am about to state runs contrary to the conventional wisdom of my party. Without further ado, my preface and defense.
I am deeply committed to the orthodox Christian faith, particularly from a Reformed/Calvinist perspective. Labels may not always be desirable, but they are often helpful. At times I have encountered dissonance between my political philosophy/ideology and my faith. This is one of those moments.
How Things Really Work
The American economic system runs contrary to scripture’s commands. This party claims we need to place everyone on equal footing, financially speaking. That party claims we need to completely deregulate business for everyone to get rich. Both notions are severely flawed. I wish to neither play Robin Hood nor Scrooge. Christians must not… no, Christians cannot, devote themselves wholly to any political ideology.
To quote Wendell Berry: “It seems we have been reduced almost to a state of absolute economics, in which people and all other creatures and things may be considered purely as economic ‘units,’ or integers of production, and in which a human being may be dealt with as a covetous machine” (from his essay: “Economy and Pleasure”).
All things begin with idolatry. Industries come up with new products and convince us we must have the latest and greatest. We, in turn, demand the same at all costs. At the swipe of a card or signature of a loan, we eagerly give our lives over to lenders.
We continue this habit until collection agencies knock down our doors, put liens on our homes, and place us to public shame. Suddenly we receive sweetheart deals when they claim to be our personal savior.
Debt buyers and collection agencies are owned and operated by banks. In turn, bank executives take our money to politicians for financial bailout. They fund Political Action Committees and campaigns without limitations because of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Citizens United. All of this in the name of the First Amendment. Our law equates the amount of freedom one has with his wealth.
Politicians come back to us begging for votes pointing fingers at their opponents for political corruption. All the while they are in the pockets of the nation’s wealthiest men. For proof, pick your favorite elected official and glance through his/her donors list(s).
After we buy into a campaign’s promises, elected officials go back to Washington while the cycle runs full circle, over and over and over again. We exacerbate our problems because we do not take responsibility for our actions, nor do we research our candidates.
Both big business and government are funded and operated by people. Going back to my faith in Christ and belief in scripture, my worldview tells me no man is without guilt. Whether one is a politician, wealthy executive, or a nobody, we are all prone to chasing after and protecting our personal interests. That means both government and industry need checks and balances.
Be the Change
We’ve heard the word in nearly every political campaign. If there’s one thing every candidate has agreed upon in recent times, it is that we need change. Yet no one seems willing to suggest and enact a solution. To some degree, until corporations and governments cease viewing citizens as “economic units or integers,” we will maintain an impersonal economic hellbent on increasing revenue rather than quality of life, liberty, or responsibility.
(1) We need stricter lending policies: (a) homebuyers should not be able to receive approval on homes outside their affordability; and (b) and credit card companies and payday lenders should not be able to charge exorbitant interest rates and fees.
(2) Campaign finance regulations need to be tightened: (a) we need to reverse Citizens United; and (b) we need to restrict campaign contributions to the district a candidate would potentially serve. Wealth should not be equated with the amount of freedom laws guarantee. Elitists should not be granted the ability to buy elections, particularly those outside the districts in which they live.
(3) We also need increased individual responsibility. The wealthy are not the only ones to blame. I am not suggesting or condoning class warfare. That’s not the answer, nor is it helpful in the slightest. I am suggesting we need equality and responsibility. Just as we rebuke our government for irresponsible spending, we must take a hard look at ourselves. Individual debt is soaring through the roof. In part because of the deregulation of financial institutions, but in large because individuals have negated responsibility.
I have been a Republican for years now. I’ve worked on campaigns and in government administrations. I’ve been a volunteer and I’ve been paid for my involvement. Probably like you, I am jaded by American politics.
This is not a white flag, but a call to action. The Tea Party surged over this same sentiment and now flounders because they’ve found their candidates to be equally culpable. We do not need more of this party or that party’s candidates. We need citizens from all walks of life in Washington. Just as money, or lack lack-thereof, should not determine liberty and freedom, it is quite obvious it does not determine intelligence.
Lest we’d have ourselves continue down the same bleak path, we must take action. First in our own lives, and secondly in the public square. I hate to include a cliche quote, but it is quite fitting. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And to that I add, you can be.