Real Campaign and Spending Reform
The real problem is not how our Congresspeople get their money but what that money buys. Spending and special-interest regulation has gotten out of control. Everyone knows this. But yet due to the disparate costs of government and rational ignorance of voters there is just tinkering around the edges of this major problem with our political system.
People will do voluntarily what they want with their money, even give it to politicians. (I gave $25 to William Weld once, last I heard he was done writing Sci-fi novels in a Manhattan studio and running for Governor of something). Putting caps on what people spend their money on is basically wrong, wont work, and is a limit on freedom of speech.
The reform is needed on the spending side, eg what the politicians offer those that give them money. After all, the money that is given the politicians is the giver's own, the money the politicians spend is your and mine. There is a disconnect.
In the Post this morning there was an article on how some multinationals got together to lobby for a one-year tax holiday for their oveseas earnings. This lobbying cost $1.6 million, in return they got $100 billion in tax savings. Not a bad investment. As a friend of mine used to say, "dont hate the players, hate the game". The solution is to have a simplified tax code, a flat tax or consumption tax. (See here for more Workers comments on tax reform.) By removing the ability to grant special favors in the taxcode we will remove some of the corruption (here I mean robbing the blind) in our system.
The other problem is the general level of spending increases of the federal government. It used to be that Republicans would hold spending down (eg were the party of fiscal constraint) and Democrats would "tax and spend". Now both parties spend. The buzzword here is "earmarks" (directed spending, usually in the Transportation - or in the vernacular "highway" - bill, yes there is a role for the federal government in transportation delineated in the Constitution). In 1970 there were 2 earmarks, in 1991, 538 earmarks, in last year's transportation bill, 6,371 earmarks. In 2000 the number of registered lobbyists was around 18,000, today it is around 35,000. (These figures are from the National Review, February 13, 2006 issue.)
There is no incentive to keep spending down. There used to be a fiscal policiy need, back when monetary policy was 'iffy'. But due to 20 years of stable money, fiscal restraint is gone. With Republicans controlling the government over the past 10 years, there is no check on power.
The solution is simple, put a cap on spending. Limit the growth of the federal government to that of inflation, or like Colorado did, to that of revenues. This will keep a check on our spendthrift politicians, like no "campaign finance reform" will ever do.