Why, why, why money influences politics so much

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

We’re all familiar with the common scenario of a young child’s curiosity leading to a string of “Why?” questions, which in turn leads his parent to question the very meaning of existence, or in a frustrated burst yell back “Because I said so!” In the business world, the 5 Why’s are a Six Sigma process improvement technique used to identify the root cause of a problem. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll about money in politics describes a common sentiment, but the accompanying story would do well to ask why a few more times:

(Reuters) – Most Americans, no matter what their political party, believe there is too much money in politics and reject the idea that people should be allowed to spend what they want, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Thursday.

Seventy-five percent of Americans feel there is too much money in politics, and only 25 percent feel there is an intrinsic right to unfettered election spending, an argument commonly used by opponents of controls on campaign finance.

Next comes the Why, but it’s only asked once, and in the wrong way:

“What we’re essentially seeing is Americans are fed up with the system and they think all the money in the system is not fair and they don’t like it,” said Chris Jackson, research director at Ipsos public affairs.

Being “fed up” because you think something is “not fair” and you “don’t like it” is a start, but unfortunately the pollster’s childlike tendencies stop there, instead of transitioning into the why, why, why routine. Let me help:

Why are people turned off by the enormous sums of money in politics? Because they see it as the rich buying influence.

Why do they see it as the rich buying influence? Because it is… nah, that’s a dead end. How about…

Why do the rich spend so much money on politics? Because that’s what it costs. Hmmm… now we’re getting somewhere:

This year’s U.S. elections are expected to be the most expensive ever – with billions of dollars raised and spent on national, state and local races. In April alone, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised $43.6 million, while Romney took in $40.1 million for his campaign and the Republican National Committee.

The problem is not that there is too much money in politics, but that our political system is one worth spending a lot of money on. Before you begin laughing at the idea that a government recently led by the three stooges of Harry, Nancy, and Barry, is money well spent, here’s a different way of putting it: The root cause isn’t the rich buying influence with politicians, but with a body politic that accepts government exerting power over our economy and daily life to the extent it does. We don’t solve that by imposing price controls on the political process, but by limiting the true value of the politicians that are being bought.  When vast regulatory schemes allow bureaucrats such as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to shout, “Because I said so!”, or incomprehensibly large “stimulus” bills give President Obama a blank check to fund liberal pet causes, that enormous power will be bought and sold somehow. Big government doesn’t just tax and spend too much, it makes politicians cost too much. The only way to lower all those costs is to limit big government’s scope, so big money will have better things to buy.

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