Jonathan Rauch's article on Washington lobbyists ("Suckers!," May) begins brilliantly and incisively but then comes to a lame halt, with Mr. Rauch concluding that it ain't so terrible after all, since America is such an "open" society. Please!
The only way to limit the power of money on Capitol Hill is to reduce the value of money. Lawmakers need the money of lobbyists in their campaign coffers to run for re-election. With public campaign financing and severe spending controls, deeper pockets would mean nothing. Candidates would be forbidden to spend any of their own money and would receive only a limited amount of public funds--just enough, say, to mail out position papers to their constituents.
Some say that banning lobbyists would infringe on First Amendment rights. But the Bill of Rights was designed to protect people from the government, not to protect the government from reasonable restrictions placed upon it by the people. For the same reason that no one may lobby or give money to a Supreme Court justice in the hope of a favorable ruling, no one should be allowed to lobby or give money to a lawmaker in an attempt to influence his vote. Bribery should be returned to where it belongs: under the table.
Steven E. Curtis
As a "parasite" with some 30 years'
experience before I retired five years ago, including 20 years as a lobbyist in Washington with one of the country's largest grass-roots organizations, I do not buy the generic description of all lobbyists as parasites. A great many lobbyists not only represent the interests of those who pay their salaries but, as many members of Congress will attest, provide an invaluable source of information on thousands of facets of the American economy.
Rauch fails to mention that the most powerful group of lobbyists in Washington consists of those who speak for the hundreds of agencies of the federal government, not to mention state and local government. At least half the time, expense, and effort of lobbyists is spent attempting to stop or make less intrusive new laws that result in more regulation and suppression of initiative and investment. Lobbyists spend as much time fighting the growth of the federal leviathan as they do seeking favors from it.
If there is a lobbyist problem, the answer is to drastically cut the size and power of government at all levels. With fewer bureaucrats to influence and with less tax money to transfer, the so-called problem with lobbyists will solve itself.
On the subject of "budget constraints" resulting in "outdated equipment" for the Federal Aviation Administration ("Sky Cops," May), Robert Poole neglects to mention a government-sponsored scam called the Aviation Trust Fund. This fund, established years ago, is a repository of airline ticket taxes and general-aviation fuel taxes that now amounts to about $12 billion. The purpose of putting taxpayer extractions into this fund was to improve the airport and air traffic control system. Why haven't these funds (user fees) been deployed to address the "problems" Mr. Poole sees as a crisis?
The masters of legerdemain who keep our country's books of account need the Aviation Trust Fund to help their nefarious accounting system look better. When the citizens are given the bad news about our annual deficit position, the reported deficit is reduced by the unspent (albeit fictional) money in the Aviation Trust Fund. The "accumulations" in this trust fund are, therefore, quietly reported and scrupulously guarded.
Had the ATC system been designed from the beginning by accountable businessmen and women, you can bet it would be more efficient and less expensive. To now advocate that the aviation industry remove the FAA's "budget constraints" through user fees and fully fund this gluttonous bureaucratic structure defies reason.
J. Curtis McKay
Robert Poole suggests "corporatizing" the air traffic control function. Why not just abolish it? This could be easily done for the expensive en-route portion, if the pilots were allowed to see other aircraft under instrument (blind) conditions instead of relying on ground-based radar.