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Political Class Choking America: Opinion

Without third-party competition, the two political parties have created a government that serves its own interests and those of lobbyists.

Editor's note: This is the third of a six-part series by Matt Horween, CPA, FSO (retired), that will run each day this week. The previous columns were Bring the Troops Home and Fix America First.

Many people want to know why Congress will not read the laws it passes and why we do not have lengthy public hearings with real public participation on life changing legislation.

I think the answer is that both major parties have created a system over the last four decades that has totally shut down real-third party competition and has almost guaranteed that the people will only have a choice of the most rabidly partisan people to vote for the House of Representitves and to a lesser extent the Senate.

Both political parties at the state level have gerrymandered congressional districts into safe ones for their most partisan members of Congress so that in most elections there are very few districts actually up for grabs in the general election.

During the past 10 years many Republicans and Democrats have become registered independents. In a few states, the registered independents can vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries. If all states allowed this, we would end up with more moderate representatives.

In addition, because of our one-issue and group-identity politics the winner of any election will be beholden to the special interest groups and their lobbyists in Washington, D.C., who now actually write most of our legislation, which is why the legislation takes so many pages to write as the lobbyists feed on it like reverse piranha making the legislation get bigger as more lobbyists add more sections to enrich their masters.

In the end, you get massive subsidies for ethanol as an example and a so-called stimulus bill that helps public employees stay on the payroll with great health benefits and pensions while normal people are being fired.

You can be sure that the ethanol lobby has been very busy with all those farm votes and the Iowa primary so important for presidential hopefuls. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union contributed the most to the Obama campaign I believe. There is also a strange feature to the public employee feature of our present crisis.

President Obama has granted federal employees and Congress pay increases while many state and local employees are getting pay freezes and reduced hours. Many states and localities have singled out teachers for the harshest treatment when it comes to pay cuts and layoffs.

In the end, prison guards, police and firefighters are much more important than teachers according to the state and local government bureaucrats who have insulated themselves very well against economic hardship for now or in the future.

In many states, the legislatures cannot even reduce the pensions of retired employees and currently working employees because the employee unions have made this impossible to do under the laws or state constitution.

For instance, in San Diego, the City Council illegally raised pension benefits for themselves, while the city cannot roll back the benefits for all the other city employees even though elected officials created them through illegal actions.

With incumbency assured in most cases, our governing class has set about to install as many of their relatives and friends in political appointee jobs in the federal government or as employees with contractors doing business with the federal government. They also start up small firms that become sub-contractors on big projects and fly below the radar.

Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.) has had a lot of press on this and of course pay-to-play is now a household word. It was a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who started the dismemberment of our mostly merit-based civil service when he created the Office of Personnel Management and abolished the old Civil Service Commission that served us well for a very long time.

Carter's complaint was that entrenched senior career civil servants were blocking his attempt to streamline government. In the beginning, the Congress authorized very few jobs to be political appointments. Now of course a new administration can replace the head of computer operations of an agency and that person immediately sets to work to reinvent the wheel. I have seen it happen.

The Hurricane Katrina disaster was mostly the result of political appointees replacing long-time knowledgeable civil servants and then driving out many lower ranking long-term employees who knew how to handle the aftermath of a gigantic natural disaster.