Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bigger the Badder

Robert Samuelson, an eminently sensible man, succinctly explains in today's Washington Post why little will change in Washington with the coming of the Obama administration, in terms of curbing K Street lobbyists -- and why their numbers and influence might actually increase in the years ahead, as Obama increases the size and scope of the federal government.

What self-styled political reformers rarely concede, or apparently refuse to understand, is that the real corrupting element in Washington isn't lobbyists or campaign contributions, but the power, control and money concentrated in the capitol city -- meaning that nothing will change there until we de-fund, de-power and downsize Washington. The more influence Washington exerts over our everyday lives, the more influence peddlers it will breed and attract. It's that simple. Samuelson also does a public service in this column by putting the much-vilified lobbying business in context, pointing out that lobbying, in its broadest sense, is democracy in action.

The entire column is worth reading, but here are the key paragraphs (the first sentences of which should be committed to memory by would-be reformers):

"The only way to eliminate lobbying and special interests is to eliminate government. The more powerful government becomes, the more lobbying there will be. So, paradoxically, Obama's ambitions for more expansive government will promote special pleading. You need only watch the response to the expected "economic stimulus" plan -- totaling perhaps $700 billion -- to verify this eternal truth. "A Lobbying Frenzy for Federal Funds," read the headline of one Post story.

There's more to come. Obama envisions refashioning a third of the economy: the health-care sector, representing about 16 percent of gross domestic product; the energy sector, nearly 10 percent of GDP; and the financial sector (banks, securities brokers, insurance companies), about 8 percent of GDP. There will be a vast mobilization of interests: from radiologists to renewable energy producers; from mutual funds to hospitals. Says Bara Vaida, the respected lobbying reporter for National Journal: "This will be a bonanza for K Street" -- the symbolic hub of Washington lobbyists."

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