New revelations, dubbed the Panama Papers, disclose the details of secret offshore accounts of politicians the world over, and show how deeply corrupt our political system has become. Hillary Clinton’s go-to lobbyists and fundraiser, the Podesta Group, is directly tied to the Russian oligarchs stashing billions of stolen dollars abroad.
Last year alone, the top 20 DC lobbying firms earned over $350 million in revenue from their special interest paymasters, according to the Center for Responsive Politics which tracks campaign finance and lobbying expenditures. That’s not even counting how much these special interests spent giving to the politician’s campaigns.
In Albany, it’s much the same story – big corporate and union interests spend big to secure special carve-outs and deals, all at the expense of the average American worker and taxpayer. In New York, our crooked politicians actually pocket the special interest money – and occasionally go to jail for it.
In Washington, members don’t go to jail. They pocket hefty retirement packages that reward them handsomely for making careers of politics, then go on to join the same lobbying firms that pressured them. Even the few that do go to jail, keep their sizeable pensions.
Citizen-legislators, they are not. These career politicians serve at the behest of their special interest allies who bankroll their campaigns, promote narrow agendas and hurt the American worker and taxpayer at almost every turn.
Take trade, for example. In 1993, the year before the US signed on to NAFTA, the US actually had a trade surplus with Mexico of $1.6 billion. By 2015, the U.S. imported over $58.3 more than it sold Mexico – 3,500 percent increase. With China, it’s even worse. China exported more than four times as much as we sold them in 2015.
All the while, the American heartland struggled as good-paying (often union) jobs and benefits disappeared while urban elites and Washington, D.C.’s bureaucrat and lobbyist class grew rich.
Globalization is real – there’s no turning back the clock – and it’s time politicians at least give the American worker a chance to compete. Chinese currency manipulation costs American jobs as they artificially deflate the cost of buying their goods. Washington, at the behest of their paymasters, do nothing as China cheats. China even steals – hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property from American corporations. Still, DC sits idly by. Why, so Apple can make a cheaper iPhone? Or so Carrier Air Conditioners can cut production costs a few bucks and send thousands more jobs overseas?
Don’t worry though, our most urgent need, according to the lobbyists, is more cheap illegal immigrant labor. This at a time when the labor participation rate is near 40-year lows. Income and wages have been stagnant for over a decade, barely keeping up with inflation.
At the same time, big business’s chief lobbyist, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent almost $100 million in 2014 promoting cronyists’ pet projects like amnesty for illegal immigrants and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), another “free trade” agreement that opens our markets to foreign goods while protecting foreign countries’ preferred industries.
Even the pro-free trade American Enterprise Institute thinks the TPP is a bad deal because it has so many carve-outs for special interests, here and abroad.
Moreover, the same cronyists who push for “free” trade and unlimited illegal immigration owe Uncle Sam billions. They skirt American rules andpay nothing or pennies on the dollar in taxes by moving headquarters overseas and using tax shelters to hide what they earn.
General Motors –who received a taxpayer funded bailout after the crash – made billions but didn’t pay a cent. Apple paid little using its armies of tax lawyers and lobbyists.
So the cronyists are running DC, getting rich while the rest of us get soaked, what can we do?
First, we need to send citizen-legislators to Congress and the state houses. Too many business interests give big money to politicians just to secure contracts and curry favor. Additionally, we need to cut the politicians down to size. They should not be paid more than the average American earns, let alone take home retirement packages that the rest of us dream of.
Second, we need to listen to the public and secure our borders. Americans want us to control our border and enforce our laws, its time lawmakers stood up and did something.
Third, we need a jobs agenda that works for working people. We have to stop letting foreign countries cheat on trade agreements and international corporations dictate our policy. We need tax reform that encourages companies to invest in the U.S. but doesn’t reward them for off-shoring jobs.
Finally, we need to rein in DC. It’s time DC face the same struggles the rest of us do. We have over 2 million bureaucrats dictating every aspect of our lives, from the EPA to the Department of Education. Let states and local communities decide on how to educate our children and what trees we plant in our backyards.
The American worker and taxpayer needs a friend now more than ever.
Claudia Tenney, a Republican and co-owner of a manufacturing business, represents New York’s 101st Assembly District and is running for Congress in New York’s 22nd District.