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Wealth & Economics > Are lobbies omnipotent?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16061 comments While discussing lobbying, a friend of mine working for an American firm gave me an example that his company in the US is required to mail a monthly paper report to its clients as a legal requirement. He inquired why these reports are still sent in paper, when in Europe they are sent by email for some years already and it's more 'green' and cost saving to send them electronically. His bosses explained half-jokingly or maybe not at all, that a paper -manufacturing lobby won't let it happen. Don't know how it really is, but this raises some questions.
Are different lobbies really omnipotent? How many progressive changes may be blocked by groups of interest? And isn't lobbying in a sense an institutionalized corruption?


message 2: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments It becomes corruption if our lawmakers are allowed to accept anything from the lobbyists, even if it's a free meal while they discuss "business."

I'm going to play devil's advocate a bit and suggest lobbyists are a necessary evil. Our congressmen aren't the most educated individuals when it comes to the issues they decide, nor do they have the time to instigate the research on every aspect of governing that Congress controls. Lobbyists allow an affected entity to summarize a position or provide information (from their point of view of course) the congressman might not otherwise get.

In some cases, these lobbyists remind our politicians just how many of their voters support, care for, or otherwise support a certain point of view. Take groups like the NRA, NAACP, AARP, AFL-CIO, groups composed of citizens uniting behind a common mission. If we didn't have the NAACP pressuring Congress, would the state of civil rights be further behind than it is now? If we didn't have the AARP lobbying, would Congress feel free to gut the Social Security program?

In our tax discussions, the issue of corporate taxes comes up. When the government raises personal income taxes, the people can go to the poll and express their disapproval in the next election. When Congress raises the corporate taxes, the companies affected have no such vote. You might argue the owners or the stockholders have a vote, but if we bring that discussion to state and local taxes, that doesn't hold true if those owners live out of the district.

One of the biggest slogans we remember from the Revolution is "no taxation without representation." If you own a rental property in city you don't reside in, you're paying property taxes, but you have no representation in that city government. I suggest that the ability of companies to lobby governments and politicians is the way they get their representation.

And at the end of the day, it's always up to our politicians how to vote...those lobbyists aren't in the Senate or House chambers pushing the yes or no buttons with their fingers. If there is a question of corruption, it lies with the politician who might allow his or her vote to be "bought."


message 3: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Yeah, but they didn't invent the term 'pork barreling' for nothing: there are a lot of pigs at the trough in Washington and some of the 'gifts' and 'favors' are far from inconsequential. What irks the most people is that some politicians don't really listen to their electorate (they just try to appear to listen), but only follow the cue of their biggest lobbyist. Honesty and moral principles are two virtues in rather short supply in the Capitol.


message 4: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16061 comments J.J. wrote: "I'm going to play devil's advocate a bit and suggest lobbyists are a necessary evil. Our congressmen aren't the most educated individuals when it comes to the issues they decide, nor do they have the time to instigate the research on every aspect of governing that Congress controls. Lobbyists allow an affected entity to summarize a position or provide information (from their point of view of course) the congressman might not otherwise get...."

Even putting aside the methods of lobbying, wouldn't it to a degree be shifting of 'public interest' agenda that is supposed to govern an uneducated elected congressman to a 'private interest' agenda? This way the 'education' they get may be a little one-sided -:) Shouldn't it be part of the due legislation process anyway, when a legislator will hear all the parties involved before initiating this or that bill, changing the disposition?


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11781 comments While I am in favour of a lobbyist bringing a matter to the politician's attention, the big problem then is only too often said politician does not do his/her homework. The politician's decision should come from independent analysis, research, and from general public opinion, and not from the first and/or last person to walk through his door. The problem is too many politicians are lazy, or, when election funding etc is at stake, inherently corrupt. For example all the politicians who won't oppose the NRA on gun control are inherently corrupt in that their decisions are as much as anything based on the fact they do not want NRA devoted to opposition candidates. Lobbyists should be banned from political donations.


message 6: by Michel (last edited Aug 17, 2018 11:58AM) (new)

Michel Poulin I will go further than Ian and say that lobbyists should be banned from operating, period! Their influence too often goes contrary to public interest and they serve only to make private companies richer, too often at the expense of the average citizen. I can't think of a better example of negative effects to the public than the actions of lobbyists in the pay of big pharmaceutical companies, when corporate greed corrupts politicians via lobbyists, resulting in life-saving drugs becoming too expensive for the average citizen.


message 7: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Nik wrote: "J.J. wrote: "I'm going to play devil's advocate a bit and suggest lobbyists are a necessary evil. Our congressmen aren't the most educated individuals when it comes to the issues they decide, nor d..."

The way our Congress is working right now, the leadership crafts the bills and then expects their members to vote on it without looking at it. Think back to the vote on the ACA, a 900 page bill which Republicans criticized Democrats for forcing a vote without giving Congress sufficient time to read through it. Fast forward to last year, and the Republicans took the same criticism for doing the same thing with the tax reform bill.

I'll give you the lobbyists are only presenting their side, but frankly, getting one side of an issue is better than getting no sides of an issue.


message 8: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16061 comments J.J. wrote: "....getting one side of an issue is better than getting no sides of an issue."

But then we shouldn't be surprised of swayed opinions and acts -:)
I wouldn't expect from a lawmaker anywhere to get into the last details of any law initiative proposed by all of his/her colleagues, but I'd expect him/her to make a proper effort to familiarize him/herself with all the nuances, where he or she proposes anything, as well as with issues where regionally or substantially his/her electoral base is involved.


message 9: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6172 comments Michel wrote: "I will go further than Ian and say that lobbyists should be banned from operating, period! Their influence too often goes contrary to public interest and they serve only to make private companies r..."

Good point, Michel.

Lawmakers should have to read and understand the bills they vote on and debate the pros and cons, not adopt a bill wholesale without reading and considering it. They shouldn't be bribed by lobbyists.
,


message 10: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Nik wrote: "J.J. wrote: "....getting one side of an issue is better than getting no sides of an issue."

But then we shouldn't be surprised of swayed opinions and acts -:)
I wouldn't expect from a lawmaker any..."


Yeah, but the public doesn't want to hear the nuances of anything that's going on, they just want the 30 second, bumper-sticker slogan version. So why should the lawmakers learn any more than the talking points the leadership gives them? Besides the public largely doesn't want Congress making the tough but necessary decisions, so the less they know about major legislation, the more they can run away from their vote when voters get mad for it.


message 11: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 16061 comments J.J. wrote: "So why should the lawmakers learn any more than the talking points the leadership gives them?..."

Yeah, I imagine they don't see themselves as working as well paid representatives for the public that elected them, but rather - to remain popular and electable, employing any tactic that suits that purpose


message 12: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin J.J. wrote: "Yeah, but the public doesn't want to hear the nuances of anything that's going on, they just want the 30 second, bumper-sticker slogan version ..."

J.J., not everybody in the public is as uncaring, unsophisticated and superficial as you claim. That is too often an excuse to give a pass to bad politics. I certainly don't equate the crowds of cheering sheeps we see at Donald Trump's rallies with the whole population of the country. And the public at large certainly expect Congressmen to do their job properly, which means among other things to understand the laws they are voting on.


message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11781 comments I think one problem with most parliaments/congresses/whatever is those at the top of the heap do not want their cherished plans overly questioned by their own side. They want to get their way. They also do not want to spend a lot of time explaining the deep intricacies of what they are proposing, which they may not have thought out at all well. Accordingly, in candidate selection, while they need a few with some sort of ability, they also need voting fodder. Only too many there are not capable of working out the consequences of what they are voting on for the ore complicated pieces of legislation. The votes are often based on nothing more than a slogan, like "Lower taxes", with the arm-waving argument that lower taxes boosts the economy. This is accompanied by "reduce government spending" but not on their pet expenditures or the military. Who cares about debt - the future can take care of that. If that is their belief, they don't need to study the legislation - who cares about evidence to the contrary. The slogan wins always.


message 14: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Michel wrote: "J.J. wrote: "Yeah, but the public doesn't want to hear the nuances of anything that's going on, they just want the 30 second, bumper-sticker slogan version ..."

J.J., not everybody in the public i..."


On one point, I'd like to think that isn't true, but on another point, it's not that people are "uncaring and superficial" as much as they're too busy in their own lives to sit at home and research candidates or fact check new stories. When you consider, their research involves more than just the Presidential race, a governor's race, a Senate race, and a Representative race - they also have city or town council races, mayor's or town manager's race, sherrif's races, judicial races, school board races, etc., etc. - it is impossible for most people to be up on the entire ballot.

When you get to the smaller races, you often see the candidate at the top of the list win the election because no one knows who those people are. We have races in NC coming up in Nov, where Democrats have entered as fake Republicans, hoping to split the GOP vote, because people don't know enough about candidates at those levels to know certain people with the (R) at the end of their name are not really Republicans. We also had the Republican-led General Assembly pass laws requiring party designation in judicial races, hoping to get Republican voters to vote for right-leaning judges, because people don't know enough about judicial candidates to identify those (on either side of the aisle) whose judicial style matches their preference.

Sometimes, that 30-second, bumpersticker slogan ad is the only chance a lot of people have to learn about a candidate.


message 15: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11781 comments If you put the wrong label after our name, that is fraud, and should be prosecuted. We here so much from the Dems of Russians putting in misleading ads, and then they do this? On the other hand, if you have no idea who the candidates are, why vote for them?


message 16: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Here, in Boucherville, south shore of Montreal, we are lucky in having a competent and dedicated mayor, who was just reelected for a second term after doing an excellent job on his first term. I guess that, at local level at the least, the best way to evaluate candidates is by their past performances in office. A new mayor was elected for Montreal about a year ago and about everyone is already grumbling about her stupid mistakes. At provincial level, elections are due in about three months and campaigning is about to start, but everybody knows already pretty well the opponents, them having been in politics for decades already. Track record is in my opinion superior to any form of campaining or advertising. If one candidate screwed up in a previous term, you can be sure that his/her opponents will remind the public about it.


message 17: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2328 comments Ian wrote: "If you put the wrong label after our name, that is fraud, and should be prosecuted. We here so much from the Dems of Russians putting in misleading ads, and then they do this? On the other hand, if..."

It's not illegal because you can register for whatever party you want. If a particular race is subject to party primaries before the general, than disingenuous candidates would get eliminated. But the Legislature has played so many games with the judicial races, they've turned it into a free-for-all in the general election. They hoped it would result in multiple Dems splitting the liberal vote, and there were fears from the left that right leaning groups would take advantage by entering fake Democrats to siphon more votes off, but ironically it's turned out the other way. In the highest profile race, the Democrat switched his party affiliation to Republican at the last possible moment, then registered his candidacy as a Republican...all legal thanks to the legislature!


message 18: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6172 comments A case needs to be brought before the Supreme Court that challenges the Citizens United decision. Ordinary citizens can't do that, but I hope it will happen. As it stands, politicians can legally be bought, and that's not what this country's founders envisioned. Also, congress should have term limits. Get some new ideas in there, and stop the feeding at the trough. Politicians should be there to serve the people, not themselves. Should this happen/how likely is this to happen?


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