Thoughts on the Revolving Door

Why would interest groups want to hire former members of Congress as lobbyists?  Do you support making this practice illegal?

Former members of Congress have experience in government and have a lot of great access and connections with powerful people – which is obviously ideal for groups looking to hire someone to help their cause. Because of their unique qualifications, former members of Congress can hugely help interest groups – and because of that, the now-unemployed politicians are paid serious amounts of money to lobby for the group.

This so-called ‘revolving door’ between Capitol Hill and K Street (which includes staffers as well, not just actual members of Congress) is unquestionably problematic. For example, in February, The New York Times wrote: “A top aide to a Republican congressman from Arizona helped promote a legislative plan to overhaul the nation’s home mortgage finance system. Weeks after leaving his government job, he reappeared on Capitol Hill, now as a lobbyist for a company poised to capitalize on the plan.” Such mingling of interests could arguably be called corruption. 

While undoubtedly troublesome, making the practice illegal would be extremely difficult, if not flat-out impossible. (Additionally, it should be noted that this issue is a part of the complex and vast problem of well-funded special interests unfairly influencing our government.) Considering how Congress (often under the influence of lobbyists) are the ones who would be in charge of making the practice illegal, it’s almost unimaginable that a Congress (who can’t seem to reach a consensus on just about anything) would pass a bill that would potentially cut millions of dollars from their future earnings. It’s quite frankly absurd to seriously think that the same scumbag politicians and lobbyists who use the revolving door would vote against their self-interests – even if their self-interests directly contrast with the interests of our nation in general. (On a similar and related note, career politicians can be problematic as well, but, as I’ve written before, it’s silly to think that those same career politicians would support term-limits that would shorten their careers.)

While there doesn’t seem to be a complete solution, we aren’t powerless against such corruption. We the people vote for Congress. And we have the power to vote for politicians who are committed to their principles. For example, former Congressman Ron Paul, while controversial to many people, fully deserves praise for refusing to give in to lobbyists – as the notorious Jack Abramoff has explained. Congressman Justin Amash is another good example. It would be much easier for Americans to vote for politicians who won’t submit to lobbyists than to expect our current politicians to make the practice illegal.

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Recommended Readings (March 2014)

Every once in a while, I try to acknowledge some of the most interesting articles that I’ve read recently. (Feel free to check out my lists of recommendations from February 17thJune 20thJuly 28th and August 8th.) I’ve tried to recommend readings that are relatively timeless, with some from this month and some from sources from the past. I tried to include articles that are interesting or funny or thought-provoking or insightful or all of the above, but there’s no real methodology. Below, in no particular order, I’ve provided the links and some of my favorite quotes from the readings.

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Who are American Evangelicals?

Today in America, Evangelicals are estimated to make up a quarter of the population, or, at least, according to other estimates, 50 million people.  The term ‘evangelical’ has a lot of connotations and stereotypes associated with it.  For example, some consider an Evangelical to be “anyone who likes Billy Graham.”  Like most stereotypes, some of the characterizations of Evangelicals are at least partly rooted in truth.  But who are American Evangelicals really?  In this essay, I will examine what it means to be an evangelical, the origins and history of evangelicalism, and modern evangelicalism before concluding.

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A Thank You Note to Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman (1869 – 1940) is one of the most under-appreciated figures in history. She fought for workers’ rights, for women’s rights, for birth control, for free speech, for peace.

(Check out the PBS documentary with more information here)

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Stop Whitewashing History: The Civil War Was About Slavery

In one of my opinion columns for The Horn, I advocated removing the statues of Confederate leaders from the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. I’ve been surprised and disappointed by how many people are truly proud of our Confederate history. Many believe that slavery wasn’t the main cause of the Civil War, and that the Southerners were fighting “about autonomy/ freedom from a authoritarian government,” as one commenter wrote.

In fact, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2011 found that 48% of Americans considered states’ rights to be the primary cause of the war, compared to only 38% who said the war was mainly about slavery.

However, the vast majority of historians today, as well as firsthand accounts from the time, point out that slavery was undoubtedly the primary factor of the American Civil War (although, of course, not the only cause).

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