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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit the nail on the head (link) a couple weeks ago while speaking in front of about 2,300 University of Connecticut students aspiring in journalism. Clinton, a politician, a presidential candidate perhaps, said what so many of us had been waiting for a person of her stature to say: our media is broken. Clinton said that the media had “become more entertainment driven, and more opinion-driven as opposes to factual.” She’s absolutely right. More and more often, we see stories of the latest celebrity gaffes, breakups, and partisan opinion columns.
UCONN president Susan Herbst queried Clinton during the question and answer session if she thought future journalists could possibly break the gridlock that Congress has been suffering since these journalism students have been alive. The former First Lady’s reply? She feels journalism needs to move toward an explanatory format and the first step for journalism students: “do your homework.”
So, I did my homework. I’d always wondered just how corrupt Congress and our government was, in terms of lobbying or “buying Congresspeople” or “buying votes.” Please make sure you haven’t eaten in the past thirty minutes before you see the gut-wrenching truth (link). In 1998, $1.45 billion was spent on lobbyists in Congress, an astounding number. Compared to 2013 however, where $3.21 billion was spend, well more the double, 1998 really does look like the good ol’ days of Congress lobbying. The worst year throughout that time period was actually 2010, when $3.55 billion dollars went spent lobbying Congress for votes.
Most of us probably knew that lobbyists threw billions and billions of dollars at Congress per year, but rare is the person that actually knows the effect that it has on Congress. We probably think of lobbyists as representatives from the most radical organizations, and this to many parts, is true.
However, many lobbyists come from more moderate groups, or groups that act in the interest of a certain corporation or industry. It’s the reason why bills like the Monsanto Protection Act (link) pass with bipartisan support but a bill keeping student loan rates down fails (link).
This when you know the line has been crossed between a government for the people, by the people, and what is essentially an oligarchy. This corruption is so ingrained into the way our federal government operates that no politician and no news organization – from the left or the right – is willing to bring it up.
The one saving grace to our government system – we do still elect our officials. If the people have had enough of lobbyists buying our politicians, then it lies in the hands of the people to vote out these politicians. Former Secretary of State Clinton, your advice was spot on – doing my homework educated me about a reality most Americans never see. But to make our homework a little easier in the future, come 2016, please remember to serve those who put you in office.