Political Cynicism – Part II – The Politicians

In order to maintain a readable length for this subject, I will be covering the topic in three parts. Be sure to read “Part I – The Voter” and stay tuned for “Part III – The System” to be posted in the very near future.

The Politicians

The problem with politicians existed since the first President also. George Washington, after being elected to the Presidency, originally would not accept the salary payments as he valued his image as a selfless public servant. After much debate, and understanding that everything he would do would set precedence, he accepted the salary so the presidency would not be perceived as limited to only independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. Oddly enough, every president and most politicians from that point on were independently wealthy. In the early years, this had something to do with their image as successful businessmen and leaders in their community. Lately, it has more to do with being able to fund a campaign that will require millions of dollars in promotion and advertising. Even though Abraham Lincoln is seen as coming from humble origins, it was not until he had a successful law practice and was well-educated that he was able to enter the political arena. Combine this with the wealth that was necessary to achieve a proper education in the early years, and the result was a governmental leadership that was educated and wealthy well beyond the means of the general public. This had less of an impact then, as issues were about security of the new country, expansion of the territory, statehood recognition, and general improvements in daily living. Times have changed greatly, and yet we have the same thing involving our politicians today. Those able to run for all most any office, at any level, have had to already be successful on a personal level. They will have the necessity to have a college education (most of them obtaining law degrees), live in a nice and stable home or the perception thereof, show success in their personal and business lives, be well-connected and well-liked, and have enough personal wealth to support their campaign. Can anyone who is not already wealthy believe that a politician who belongs to the upper class of citizens really has your best interest at heart? Do we believe the sound bites and New York Avenue polished advertising to be their real intent once they are elected? Aren’t they just telling us what we want to hear so they can get our vote? Won’t they be saying the same thing to us, regardless of their actual voting record, when it comes time for re-election? These are people of wealth in the only position of work where you get to vote on your own salary and benefits. How can we possibly be surprised that they have never voted themselves a pay cut? Wouldn’t we all love the chance to vote on how much all the people who are allowed to vote on the issue will make? Probably not hard to talk your peers into the idea they deserve more money and benefits too. Are they ready to pass legislation that will affect their major financial contributors to the benefit of those less able to contribute? It does not take great intelligence to see why this just doesn’t work. So the solution is to elect people from the common and majority class of Americans. Well, not so fast. Even those with the most idealistic views and true desire to benefit their own class of citizens are, by necessity, drawn into a job that comes with a great “vote how much you want to make” salary and benefit package. Just by being elected, their interests will change.  More importantly, even if we can keep them focused on their constituents, they will be junior senators and congressmen, resigned to holding very minimal committee positions, if any at all. They will be children in the process of drafting legislation and powerless in getting that legislation passed. They will become a part of the system they are trying to change.

© 2012  Commonsensibly Speaking ~ Brad Osborne

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