Money leads to service from politicians

Here comes the crunch. No two ways about it, American taxpayers are fed up with what they have to pay in income and property taxes. This is all aggravated by the huge unemployment rates in the country and specifically, in New York. At the same time, the worse things get, the more those who are unemployed and so many others need the help of government. The governor and the Legislature have to figure out which priority is greater — the lowering or stabilizing of tax bills or providing the services that everyone needs and demands. The politicians know that if they can’t figure something out, they may well be looking for work, too. They lose voters either way so they hold a finger into the wind and pray they get it right. If you don’t think this is serious, just look at the kind of press that the politically pathetic Sarah Palin and her “tea party” cohorts are getting. I mean this woman proved herself to be completely inept as a politician but is riding voter anger to what looks like a run for the White House. Unbelievable and sad.

The major lobbies in New York State will be yelling and screaming at the legislature. “Our kids will suffer.” (They surely will.) “People will die in our heath care facilities.” (True.) “Our elderly will suffer.” (They absolutely will.) “Our poor will suffer.” (They always come first.) “Our indigent accused criminals who can’t afford a defense will suffer.” (So what’s new?) “Our poor who need legal help with non-criminal matters will be crucified by these budget cuts.” (Tragically, they absolutely will.) “Our arts organizations will be seriously compromised.” (You better believe it.) “The animals in our zoos will suffer.” (Here come the ads showing starving and pathetically treated animals. All true.)

The “lobby days” at the state Legislature will see more busses lined up than ever before. The legislators will find themselves hiding under their desks and using the back door escape hatches to come and go. Secretaries in their offices will be reduced to tears as angry service seekers yell and scream at them since they can’t find the people who actually make the laws.

It is an axiom of politics that those who have the least find themselves at the lowest end of the priority list. As the old saying goes, “The mentally ill don’t have alumni associations.” And it doesn’t stop with the mentally ill. The same could be said for the unemployed; for people who have just been released from a penal institution; for those poor who need urgent medical care. These people certainly don’t have any lobbyists representing their interests, nor do they have money to buy the votes of legislators.

Yes, you read that right. What do you think is going on when all those legislators spend all that time “dialing for dollars?” Who do you think they are calling? Every night in Albany and New York City, you can have your choice of fund-raising cocktail parties in which fat cat lobbyists show up and fork over big checks to legislators. Of course, it would be a felony to say, “I’ll give you this money if you vote for bill X,” so only a dummy would say that. Look, there is honor among these folks — did you think I was going to say “among thieves”? Everyone knows how it works. You give value for value received. If someone gives money, they get “access.” Where I come from, access means that they have sold their votes to the highest bidders.

As a SUNY professor, I was represented for years by a powerful union. Unfortunately, this year SUNY is being screwed because the politicians have to find the money where there is none. You can’t get blood from a stone. Those who can give the most money will get the best service. If you think for one second that the banks, the lawyers and the insurance companies won’t get service for cash on the barrel, think again. If those whose kids are students don’t keep their eyes on these people, you had better believe that some terrible things will be happening. It won’t be good public policy, it will be political prostitution. I’ve never wanted to be a politician. Now that’s truer than ever.

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 2/8/10

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One Comment on “Money leads to service from politicians”

  1. angieaker Says:

    It comes down to the objective, of course, being the almighty dollar, rather than the promotion of the greater good. That’s why when the chips are down and there is no money to throw into the pot for protection, we have to be extra vigilant. Thanks for what you do, Alan.

    Angie Aker

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