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October 29 2014

John Stossel: It’s really difficult to ‘throw the bums out’

John Stossel Syndicated Column

By JOHN STOSSEL

I’m told the public is “angry” at today’s politicians. Eighty-two percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing. So, will Tuesday’s election bring a big shakeup?

No. Congressional re-election rates never drop below 85 percent.

The last big “wave” election was 1994, when Democrats lost control of both houses. The media called it a “revolution,” and the late Peter Jennings of ABC likened Americans to 2-year-olds throwing a tantrum.

Even that year, the re-election rate was 90 percent.

Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks and Hadley Heath Manning of Independent Women’s Forum came on my show to say they don’t believe this will be the year voters “throw the bums out.”

Incumbents have all sorts of built-in advantages, Manning said, and “once you’re in office, you have network ties, usually with a big party organization, usually with other officeholders. You have ties to donors who have helped you in your previous round of fundraising.”

In the United States, she said, “we don’t have kings,” but “we still have political dynasties.”

Politicians in office game the system to make it tougher for outsiders to challenge them. They always talk about getting money out of politics. They don’t mean getting taxpayer money out of their own end of politics — all those privileges such as government mailings and websites and broadcasting facilities right in the Capitol. No, the money they want to limit is outsiders’money.

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “this money is suffocating the airwaves, silencing the voices of the many,” she meant she wants to prevent private groups funding political messages that sometimes criticize people such as her. Expensive TV ads might allow unknown challengers to break through. Can’t have that.

Manning said Democrats who now push the idea of a constitutional amendment to limit campaign ads “want to rig the system so that their donors are still able to give — whether that’s labor unions or people who typically support Democrats — but they want to silence the opposition.”

They make it sound as if labor-union donations are a natural part of the democratic process — but money from corporations and independent interest groups, by contrast, “interferes” with elections.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the charge against evil “outside” money when he got what he and reporters called campaign finance “reform” passed a dozen years ago. The Supreme Court wisely threw much of that out because it was an attack on free speech. But there are still a million rules left — plenty to discourage “amateurs” from trying to participate in politics.

“The problem with campaign finance regulation is it allows for an insane amount of discretion amongst the regulators,” Kibbe said. “So they can pick and choose who is punished for what. And it’s really just a way to control political speech.”

A better way to get new blood into politics would be term limits on elected officials.

Several states have them, and the result has been more turnover in legislatures. That’s good news for taxpayers because studies show that the longer politicians are in office, the more they spend.

Saying most incumbents will win is not saying that the election doesn’t matter. It does. It would be good for America if Republicans won the Senate, taking away Sen. Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., power to pass absurd farm subsidies or fatten flood insurance while blocking votes on things such as the Keystone oil pipeline, charter school expansion and Yucca Mountain nuclear disposal.

Reid will probably lose his position as majority leader. But he will remain in Washington with all the other big-spending blowhards — from both parties — who grow old and powerful there.

John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on Fox News. He writes for Creators Syndicate.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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