McCain's War on Political Speech
Is Bradley A. Smith really so naive as to believe that campaign contributions play no role in our corrupt political system ("John McCain's War on Political Speech," December)? This very magazine is filled with articles that prove the opposite. Why does he think Congress and President Bush have outspent every president in history, enriching big contributors in the process? Why does he think taxpayers spend $300 billion per year on corporate welfare, which includes subsidies, grants, no-bid contracts, tax breaks for the wealthy, and $25 billion in local pork and bridges to nowhere?
These were bought and paid for by campaign contributions, and it costs each taxpayer more than $3,000 per year to support these government giveaways. No, these fat cats are not being "good corporate citizens"; they are bribing politicians. Ask the folks at Halliburton, Bechtel, and Enron if their political money doesn't win them taxpayer-funded favors, and they'll laugh you out of the state.
I don't like the McCain-Feingold bill as it is, and it's not what Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) originally wanted. It's what was left over after Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Tom DeLay (R-Texas) gutted the original proposal. If the defenders of democracy want a fair system, they should pass the Clean Money Elections bill proposed by Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.). As they do in Arizona and Maine, under systems voted in by the people, we could fully fund our federal elections for a cost of $10 per taxpayer per year. It's voluntary, so it passes constitutional muster. Leave the current system in place and let the politicians continue receiving campaign funds from private interests, if they want to. But for those without money or who do not want to be obligated to private funders, give them an alternative public grant equal to what was spent in the district in the previous election, but restrict their spending to campaign costs.
The transcript of Bradley A. Smith's talk on "campaign finance reform" was a marvelous contribution to reason. Regulating money in politics (and therefore speech, since advertising is so central to campaigns) is like having elephants stomp on Jell-O. Money will continue to find outlets--even less direct, even less traceable, even less comprehensible to the average Joes who would prefer to cast informed votes.
The best way to "fix" things would be to take advantage of information technology: Take off the limits and require real-time disclosure of income and expenditures. See a crappy ad? Find out who bought the damned thing. Can't learn enough in a 30-second spot? Sometimes you can learn more about a candidate by checking who is putting their money behind that particular mouth.
Let a Thousand Choices Bloom
A great advance in education ("Let a Thousand Choices Bloom," December) would be for textbook publishers to offer warranties on accuracy. The whole point of education is to transmit accurate information. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of factual errors in numerous textbooks at the K�12 and college levels. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars are going to miseducate millions of students right now. It's so bad that colleges don't insist that their faculties take responsibility for the accuracy of the textbooks they write or review.
Woodland Hills, CA