July 22, 2014

Independence Day—how are we doing?

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By Rick Hubbard
This Fourth of July, as we the people gather together in remembrance, let’s ask ourselves this simple question: How well are my individual interests, and our collective interests, being represented today by our Washington politicians?
It’s an important question, for we declared our independence from Great Britain in 1776, fought a war, and founded our country over the issue of improper representation. The original settlers of America had come to feel that, in levying taxes on the colonists, King George III was representing his own interests, and those of his wealthy trading company backers, without properly considering the interests of American colonists.
Subsequently, when our founders, in 1787, gathered in Philadelphia to draft our original Constitution, they were very sensitive to this issue of improper representation.
During debate, this question emerged. What if we set up a new form of government and, at some future time, a majority of the people feel it’s happening again, and Congress won’t fix it?
That time has arrived.
Much has been written to document that outcomes of legislation, regulations and policy are often tipped to serve the interests of wealthy contributors. The minority party in Congress often engages in tactics that promote gridlock in order to hopefully become the majority party, rather than to actually resolve issues important for American citizens.
We in Vermont elect good people as part of our Vermont Congressional delegation. Then they go to Washington and operate in a current political system structured to provide improper incentives that, in turn, often corrupt outcomes. It’s a system problem.
Unfortunately, many in Congress have little incentive to fix things. The present system serves their interests, provides them with the campaign cash to better stay in power, and also serves the interests of their wealthy funders.
The fundamental problem is that 96 percent of us don’t contribute a dime directly to any federal political candidate or party. Congress thus regularly serves the interests of this tiny minority of their wealthy contributors rather than our interests.
This issue affects all of us, regardless of whether we are conservative, moderate, liberal or progressive.
We all pay when Congress takes action to enable wealthy economic interests in ways that moves money out of our pockets and into theirs. We all are affected on practically every major issue before Congress these days.
While most of us can agree we’ve got a significant problem, we’ve barely begun to reach consensus on how to comprehensively repair our political system. Much can go wrong along the way. Solutions can be proposed which appear to help, but which aren’t comprehensive enough to really repair the underlying problem.
So it’s up to us citizens to rescue our democracy and reclaim our representation.
Much discussion and debate are necessary about how best to accomplish this.
As former Vermont Governor Phil Hoff has stated, “this is the paramount issue of our time, for it goes to the very core of our democracy and representation.”

Rick Hubbard is a native Vermonter, retired attorney and former economic consultant now living in South Burlington.

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