A lot of people have been asking about the research I presented in Niagara a few weeks back and how it correlates to the novel I’ve been working on. In short, I took a look at how lobbying influences Congress as well as how people are able to essentially write laws for their corporate employers, a practice that needs to be put to a swift resolution. I’m including the main text of my presentation below, but feel free to comment or message me for further discussion or just to let me know what you think.
Business and government have rarely, if ever, been separate at any point in American history. However, it used to be that the government simply oversaw and regulated certain aspects of commerce; now, commerce is beginning to regulate the American government. The reason for this is that lobbying has become such an overwhelming force in Congress that powerful businesses are not only able to hire lobbyists on their behalf, those lobbyists are able to then secure positions as Congressional figures, where they can write policies that benefit their former employers—and likewise, former Congress men and women often go on to work for companies that benefitted from the way certain laws were written, creating an incentive for such people to ensure the work they do in Congress is in favor of said businesses. This practice, known as the revolving door of Congress, is a major source of corruption that influences what laws are put into effect and what products are allowed on the market, jeopardizing the American lifestyle through the potential distribution of unsafe goods and services as well as silencing the political voice of the American people.
Data from the Senate Office of Public Records and calculations from the Center for Responsive politics show that in 2013, 3.21 billion dollars were spent on lobbying, while the peak amount spent was 3.55 billion in 2010. In 2007, there were roughly 14,800 lobbyist and in 2013 only 12,300 reported being active lobbyists. This discrepancy led to an investigation that showed many people who ‘stopped’ lobbying actually continued to do the same or similar work for their firms. They have simply begun to operate in a way that allows them to work in our political system without being registered lobbyists. Some major figures who have done this include former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), as both work for major lobbying firms, but neither have ever formally registered as lobbyists.
Some feel this is a response to the passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, which strengthened disclosure requirements and set a limit of one to two years before Congressional figures could then become lobbyists. This led to a wave of people finding loopholes to continue working without being subjected to such oversight. Over 3,400 people who had lobbied in 2007 were no longer officially registered as lobbyists in 2008. In 2012, there were 1,700 fewer active lobbyists than in 2011, and slightly more people dropped their registration between 2012 and 2013. However, many remained employed in high-ranking positions in the companies they worked for prior to unregistering.
Moreover, the parameters of this act do not prevent Congress men and women from working in the field they once oversaw, meaning someone who writes laws in a way to benefit a company can easily be hired to a managerial or executive position, such as when Monsanto hired former Senator Blanche Lincoln and her lobbying firm to assist it in Congress. Likewise, the bill does not prevent an industry employee from then serving in an aspect of government that oversees the same industry, as when Michael Taylor, a former lawyer for Monsanto that helped the company fight the labeling of milk produced from cows that had been given growth hormone, joined the FDA as deputy commissioner for policy and set guidelines noting that any labelling of growth-hormone-milk must say there is no difference between the two. This fact is now known to be untrue, but an investigation determined there was no conflict of interest, despite the potential harm done to the public from this willful refusal to inform them of a potentially dangerous food additive.
This are only a few examples, but they are far from an exhaustive list of all those involved in Monsanto, similar agencies, or executive government offices. The lobbying now being done in secret is an even greater threat to the peoples’ personal and political lives, as those making the laws are able to work the system for financial gain at the expense of others. Though, in many cases, the policies and products being put into effect can be harmful, such activities are done outside the public awareness; this means the people most able to stop this process are Congressional figures—the same people who allowed all this to happen. If there is any hope of making sure businesses stay out of Congress, then there needs to be a massive, grassroots effort to educate people on what’s happening and put a bill stopping the revolving door to referendum, so that it can be voted into effect without being blocked by those with fiscal motives.
And now, an excerpt from my novel (all rights reserved).
Having finished my training for the day, I was free to do what I wanted. Until I was fully ready, Desmond wouldn’t let me venture to the surface world, so I spent the afternoon touring the Lower level of Platform Seven with Oswald and Idalia.
Even in our skybound nation, we must have been quite a sight: Me, the Defect, bundled up against the cold winds that tore through the grid that was our streets; Oswald, the former Hierarch, whose gray hair, I now realized, was mechanical and permanently stylized to frame his face; and Idalia, the child with the obsidian eyes, whose power sign-shaped pupils shone a pale blue light on everything within her gaze. I couldn’t tell which of us was more unusual, but maybe that’s why we got along so well.
We’d walked about six blocks before an advertisement loomed over us, displaying a six-year-old boy with a cup of coffee and the phrase “Coffee Strong” in capital letters against a red talk bubble. Beneath, the phrase “Sponsored by Hierarch (Coffee)” flashed, so no one would forget who ran the coffee industry.
“Isn’t coffee supposed to be gross?” Idalia chimed.
“Sure is,” I lied. I felt bad about lying to her again, but children are attentive. Gullible, but attentive. They may believe anything you say, but they’ll remember it too, so if you’re not consistent, they’ll call you out on it.
“Coffee is, of course, one of the many bones in the Unity Economy skeleton,” Oswald added. “Even if it’s unpleasant, it’s our duty to drink it.”
I said, “But studies have shown coffee is bad for you.”
“Studies have also shown it’s good for you. Makes a strong heart,” he said, thumping his chest, a slight clang ringing out as his metallic hand collided with his metal torso.
“If studies support both sides, who’s to say which is right?”
“Because Hierarch (coffee) supports the statements saying coffee is good for you, and he is one of our most powerful leaders. You know that that a Hierarch is always right, Anna. It’s the law.”
Idalia glanced back and asked, “Why is that a law?”
“Because, little one,” Oswald smiled, “if you’re wealthy and powerful, you’ve obviously earned all you have, and that means you know more than people who aren’t wealthy. Money shows how much power you have, and how much power you have shows how smart you are. So, it was made a law that the wealthiest are always right, because they must be the smartest.”
“Oh…” The girl tapped her chin, and I would sooner have thrown myself off Adonia and dealt with the mile-long plummet to the earth than let a child think that what he just said was true.
“Hold on, the Hierarchs make the laws. They made all the consumption day laws, all the mandatory buying laws, so doesn’t that mean that our leaders are making policies that benefit themselves? Doesn’t that mean our government is designed to keep the Hierarchs wealthy?”
“Yes, Anna,” he glared, “what’s your point?”
“Well, if they write laws that force people to spend money, then they’re not smarter. That’s just an abuse of power.”
“But Hierarchs are allowed to do that. It’s one of our laws.”
“Again, a law that the Hierarchs wrote.”
“It doesn’t matter. The Hierarchs know what’s best. They’re always right, so we should listen to them.”
“But you were a Hierarch once, and you retired because you disagreed with the policies of other Hierarchs! Doesn’t that show that no, our leaders aren’t always right?”
Oswald straightened up, head tilted up, as if he were speaking to someone on the rooftops rather than me. “I was wrong. I disagreed with Hierarch Elmwood about Censortech for children, but I was taught why censorship is necessary, and was then dismissed from my position for interfering with the flawless operation of Unity Government.”
“Flawless? You got fired for speaking up for what you believe in!”
“It doesn’t matter. Hierarch Elmwood said I was out of line, so I must have been, because Hierarchs are always right.”
Staring at the advertisement, I thought of how just that morning, the Channel Seven news station reported another thirty-four children who were admitted to the hospital from caffeine overdoses. They all had their original hearts removed and were given two-year Dynatech replacements, as was Adonian policy. In two years, they’d either buy a new heart or drop dead on the spot, and the news would write them off, just another statistic of someone who they’d say refused to participate in Unity Economy. Those that could afford more replacements would spend the rest of their lives working day after day just to buy another year when their hearts were about to expire. A lifetime of indentured servitude, all because a Hierarch said that six to ten cups of coffee is the recommended dose for people under fourteen years of age.
“Yeah,” I muttered. “I guess our leaders know best.”