November 27, 2008

Professional Lobbyists - The Fourth Branch of Government

Over the past 20-25 years a fourth branch of government has blossomed with a vengeance. As is the case with so much of what transpires in Washington, it is completely illegal and unconstitutional. By law, there are three branches of government, and three only: judiciary, legislative and executive. This added limb, the fourth branch, is made up of professional corporate lobbyists. Since they operate mostly out of sight of the media and the public at large, their influence on policy making and executing is hugely underestimated.

In exchange for the support of Congressmen and Senators for the corporations on whose pay-rolls they appear, the lobbyists offer the people’s representatives help in understanding difficult issues, and framing policy decisions based on the information they provide. When you see that the unwinding of Citigroup and AIG alone, and all its interests, assets, liabilities and operations, which have parts deeply embedded inside financial institutions all over the country, will take over several years, you get a good picture of what it is decision makers and legislators are up against. The trimming down of government, shown by the outsourcing of many former Washington operations to private companies, often makes it impossible to get expert advice from neutral sources.

These developments have made it inevitable that many of Washington’s official policies are being defined, and often even written, word for word, by unelected parties that have very explicit interests in shaping policy in a way that benefits their employers. If not brought into the open and dealt with soon, we could see the rise of a form of corporate fascism, and it's tragic that this aspect of American politics invites and receives so little attention. It may be obvious that the actors themselves would rather not be in the limelight, since they know full well what the legal status of their actions are, but it's much less obvious why the media leaves it all alone. Well, that is, if we forget for a second who owns those media.

Still, understanding how American policies are crafted, it becomes much easier to see why there is such an emphasis on rescuing corporations, especially financials, that everybody can see are insolvent, nearly bankrupt, and very likely to fail regardless. And why it can all happen at the cost to the ordinary taxpayer, that shrinking Productive Class, both present and future. The One Man One Vote principle may arguably have died long ago, and the rise of this fourth branch of government threatens to be a fatal stake aimed at the heart of American Democracy. One Dollar One Vote rules today.

1 comment:

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

At first, I read that as professional liberals. Also a criminal class.