You can relax, Fairfield, tax season is officially over. It's no worry for me, because I always over-withhold and get a nice "gift" from my Uncle Sam at tax time. I realize it's my own money coming back, but I enjoy that "the-check-is-in-the mail" feeling.
Contrary to the copious comments in the Daily Republic blog suggesting that I must actually enjoy paying taxes, I don't. However, unlike my many vocal detractors, who seem to think taxes should be eliminated, our government drowned in a bathtub, and that we should all exist in some post-apocalyptic Darwinist, "survival-of-the-fittest" world, I understand our government is necessary for the protection of the 99.9% of us little fish living at the bottom of the economic food chain. But I do wish that paying my taxes bought me better representation in Congress. Don't you?
In this Daily Republic column, we've discussed the fact that, in the last election, there were a million more votes cast for Democrats than Republicans for the House of Representatives, yet the House remains under Republican control due to their gerrymandering of state districts. And that Republicans have locked-up the Senate by threatening to filibuster any bill they don't like. And that the Republicans keep trying to prevent young, old, urban, immigrant, poor, and non-white citizens from voting in elections. And that conservatives usually own those magical, black-box electronic voting machines that tell us who won, without any physical record, even when exit polls say someone else did. And conservatives own most media outlets. And that Republicans benefit most from the unlimited corporate political donations, sanctioned by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court. But today, I want to talk about yet another reason why we taxpayers of America, both Democratic and Republican, are not fairly represented in Congress.
According to the non-partisan, Campaign Finance Institute, U.S. Representatives spent an average of $1.5 million in order to get elected in 2012 and candidates who outspent their opponents won 84% of the time. Since their job only lasts two years before another election, that $1.5 million divided by the 730 days means that they must raise about $2,055 in campaign contributions every day they are in office. And yes, that includes weekends and holidays. Do they have time to do anything else, besides beg for money? Senators are in office for 6 years, but they spent an average of $9.7 million getting elected in 2012. $9.7 million divided by 2,191 days in office means that they must raise $4,427 every day. Where does that money come from? We taxpayers pay our Representatives and Senators $476 every day they are in office. While that may pay for their food, clothing, and shelter, it doesn't seem to purchase much of their attention.
The wealthy, their corporations, and lobbyists invest generously in "our" representatives and, as investors, they expect suitable returns. They influence "our" representatives to vote for those things that can make them even more money, like wars, padded government contracts, subsidies, private use of public lands, non-negotiated pharmaceutical prices, oil and mineral rights, free-trade agreements, tax and environmental loopholes, access to government-funded research, punitive laws to fill their for-profit prisons, taxpayer-funded bailouts, and on and on and on. To top it off, none of these "big fish" matters are ever mentioned when Congress discusses cutting spending, only "little fish" items like Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps. To us small-fry taxpayers, none of that seems right, but for the big players, Congress is one well-greased money machine. How can we taxpayers attract Congressional attention? Share your ideas on the Daily Republic blog and we'll discuss them next Monday.