Wrong cure, wrong problem

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The official name for the group of 12 U.S. House and Senate members charged with finding “at least” $1.5 trillion in cuts to the federal deficit by Thanksgiving is the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Super

Unofficially, the group usually is called the Super Committee.

Not Super Group, Super Committee. A Super Group would be, say, Fleetwood Mac or U2. The difference is, of course, super apparent.

A Super Committee features policy wonks you’ve never heard of, like Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, and Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio.

Super groups, on the other hand, feature people so famous they require no title and only one name. Like Sting or The Edge, which, frankly, aren’t so much names as ideas.

Famous

The Super Committee is not without fame. After all, one member, Sen. John Kerry, ran for president in 2004, and another, Rep. James Clyburn, from South Carolina, is the assistant Democratic leader in the House.

Collectively, however, this group of super somethings has an even greater talent than politics. According to MAPLight.org, these 12 disciples against debt have raised more than $65.5 million in campaign cash since Jan. 1, 2001.

Remarkable, eh? The group charged with finding the Holy Grail of the nation’s fiscal future features a dozen of the most capable, most effective shakers of the political money tree since, well, since the tree was an acorn and today’s obscene campaign cash shakedown was still seen for what it is: an obscene campaign cash shakedown.

Leader

Leading the pack is Sen. John Kerry.

MAPLight, a non-partisan, non-profit research group that tracks money and its influence in politics, explains, however, that $14.1 million of the $15.8 million Kerry gathered in the last 10 years went to his failing White House bid.

Incredibly, the leftover Senate campaign cash — a fat $1.7 million — puts him dead last in the race for campaign cash among his fellow debt choppers.

The money leaders in the super group over the last 10 years are also the party and committee leaders who have been on Capitol Hill the entire decade:

Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate’s Finance Committee, $8.3 million;

James Clyburn, the assistant Dem leader in the House, $5.9 million;

Dave Camp of Michigan, House Ways and Means Committee, $5.8 million and

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, $5.7 million.

Cutting debt

If you’re looking to make lemonade from these figures, you could say that if these folks are half as effective in cutting debt as they are in vacuuming up campaign cash the nation may see some green in what promises to a be a pretty-red Christmas.

Campaign budget

If you choose to hold the sugar, however, the sour truth is that it’s very hard to see how any member of the group will put country before campaign or budget before party because most haven’t in the past 10 years.

In fact, according to MAPLight, 2,832 different entities gave cash to these 12 House and Senate super dupers in the last decade. The contributors include anyone with a special interest and the checkbook to pay for it.

(Links to MAPLight documents cited here are posted at www.farmandfoodfile.com.)

The biggest special interest was “lawyers and law firms” who coughed up $31.5 million since 2001; the second biggest was “securities & investment” firms who sent $11.2 million to Capitol Hill.

Some investment, eh? Very secure and all perfectly legal. And dirty. In fact, it’s this dirty system that has led to our dirty debt problem: Capitol Hill’s vulgar campaign finance system values dollars over ideas, special interests over national interests.

If you want to solve the debt problem, solve the campaign finance problem because, as a rancher friend recently noted, “Until then, you’re treatin’ an alcoholic for a cocaine problem.”

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

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