Via ThinkProgress, here's a scene from last Monday's Tax Day Tea Party rally in South Carolina:
Towards the end of the event, one speaker delivered a fiery speech excoriating both Democrats and Republicans for giving away hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to well connected corporations in the state. State Sen. Tom Davis (R-SC) explained to the crowd that corporations are dominating South Carolina by hiring lobbyists, then demanding huge tax giveaways from the "ruling elite" of politicians.
ThinkProgress' Lee Fang caught up with Davis, who continued to discuss the matter:
DAVIS: You've got leadership in the House, Republican and Democrat, leadership in the Senate, Republican and Democrat that are presiding over this ballooning in special deals that are given away to corporations. And the numbers don't lie: $34 million dollars worth of targeted "tax credits" back in 1998 to corporations who lobbied for them has ballooned to $523 million in 2008 and this year it has ballooned to over a billion dollars. We're not a big state. Our general fund is $5.1 billion dollars. And with a $5.1 billion dollar general fund budget, we're giving away one billion dollars in tax credits to targeted industries that have lobbyists that are going to lobby for them? Somebody pays that bill, and there's no free lunch. Who pays the bill are those folks out there that don't have the power to hire lobbyists.
I remember reading this item over the weekend and thinking that even if State Senator Davis and I couldn't agree on anything else, this was a pretty big moment of agreement. And in a peculiar confluence of events, over the holiday weekend, my father had the occasion to remind me of a particularly prophetic section of Fareed Zakaria's 2003 book The Future Of Freedom that dealt with the rise of corporate lobbying and its pernicious effects on our politics. Zakaria cited Jonathan Rauch, who argued that "the rise of interest groups" had made American government "a giant frozen mass of ossified programs trapped in a perpetual cash crunch."
"Whether you are a liberal or a conservative this condition should dismay you," Zakaria noted. "For conservatives," he wrote, "it means that the goal of reducing federal spending has become a hopeless cause." And "for liberals," this means that "spending real money on new programs or opportunities in America has become close to impossible."
Here's the sting:
Rauch himself is resigned to the belief that "the American government probably has evolved into about what it will remain: a sprawling, largely self-organizing structure that is 10% to 20% under the control of the politicians and voters and 80% to 90% under the control of the thousands of client groups. It will change only at the margins, in ways that generally accord with the clients' wishes, but not systematically or in ways that threaten more than a few clients' franchises." This is the heart of America's dilemma today. The American people believe that they have no real control over government. What they do not realize is that the politicians have no control, either. Most representatives and senators believe that they operate in a political system in which any serious attempts at change produce instant, well-organized opposition from the small minority who are hurt by the change. And it is these minorities who really run Washington.
I'd imagine that if you lined up me, Fareed Zakaria, Jonathan Rauch, and State Senator Tom Davis, you'd probably cover a lot of territory on the political spectrum. But on this matter, at least, we all think the same thing! It makes you wonder who it is out there that disagrees with us, and what's wrong with them. (HINT: They are either buying lawmakers, or are lawmakers who have been happily bought.)