The Great Equalizer
Posted on April 2, 2009
There are a lot of claims on the term “The Great Equalizer.” Some have called it death, Samuel Colt, education, or the mid-80s show with that British guy. I prefer to bestow the moniker on ‘irony.’
Today, the Washington Post noted how a number of interest groups oppose the Obama Administration’s lobbying restrictions. Joined in opposition by the ACLU, the president of the American League of Lobbyists summed it up, saying “President Obama has managed to unconstitutionally ban American citizens from one of our most sacred rights, and it’s flat-out wrong…This is not how a democracy works; this is how a totalitarian regime works.”
The next line notes, and I’m not making this up, that “lobbying firms report a boom in business from local governments, clean-energy companies and others hoping to cash in on the $787 billion in stimulus money.” That boom was also noted today by the San Francisco Chronicle’s story Huge surge of lobbyists for climate change. I’m quite sure the juxtaposition was unintentional because the no-fly zone around the Beltway extends to both unidentified aircraft and satire.
Putting that aside, it’s easy to take swipes at lobbyists for wearing designer suits, driving fancy cars, chomping Cuban cigars, and handing out fistfuls of cash to Congressmen. But the fact is that few people in DC are that stylish; the NoVA car tax cuts down on high end rides; you can’t smoke in public anymore; and the right to petition the government is found in our Constitution.
The government takes over $2 trillion from taxpayers each year, and spends it affecting virtually every aspect of our lives from the cars we buy to the air we breathe. MoveOn.org, the NRA, the Sierra Club, and the Family Research Council are all citizen groups organized to amplify the influence ordinary people have in this process.
I’m a Republican, but I recognize that while MoveOn may be a deep-pocketed-special-interest, it filled those deep pockets with the support of thousands of individuals. Nobody thinks the person working on their behalf is bad – it’s the other guys who are the problem. But advocacy is like freedom of speech, we don’t get to choose who has a voice.
Congress and the Administration are pursuing policies that will dramatically increase the role — good or bad — government will play in our lives (read: climate change legislation, health care, nationalization of GM, and the taxes to pay for it all). Now more than ever, the discussion needs to be open. The real irony is that while these leaders are raising the stakes, they want to keep people from having a seat at the table.