Cancer of money

By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator


AUG. 3, 2015 -- The Wall Street Journal headlines (7/29/15): "GM, Ford Flourish Out of the Limelight" - because of offshoring for outrageous profits. Profits or money has Corporate America offshoring our research, technology, production, jobs, payrolls - the economy. Lobbyists with the money have taken control of Congress. Dana Milbank in The Washington Post (7/28/15) editorializes: "Washington forgets the art of friendship" - forgets the art of compromise. Wall Street, the Big Banks and Corporate America want to keep the offshore profits flowing so they contribute to Congress, both parties, not to compete in globalization; not to build or protect the economy; against a Value Added Tax that would cut their profits; to do nothing. Congress could easily replace the 35 percent Corporate Tax with a 5 percent VAT, immediately releasing $2 trillion in offshore profits for Corporate America to repatriate tax free, build the middle class, create millions of jobs and eliminate income inequality. Last year's Corporate Tax produced revenues of $327 billion. A 5 percent VAT for 2014 would have produced $898 billion enabling Congress to balance the budget in two years rather than ten. Congress does nothing.

Sunday's talk shows (8/2/15) all covered the cancer of money in politics. But none covered the cause and solution. The cause was the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo. Maurice Stans, the Finance Chairman for Nixon for President in 1968, operated on a "cash and carry" basis - embarrassing us in Congress. Congress was determined to prevent the rich from buying the office so it limited spending in elections in 1971 and '73. President Nixon signed the '73 law. But the Supreme Court reversed the limit and Senators started raising money against each other. The Court equated free spending with free speech. Hiring a campaign manager is spending, not speech. Taking a poll is spending, not speech. Walk into a TV station and tell the manager you want your free speech and soon you will find yourself out on the sidewalk. Gone were the Senator's partying together, traveling together, and both political sides compromising. Partisanship set in. In 1993 Democrats cut spending $250 billion and raised taxes $250 billion - even on Social Security - without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate. In 2001, with a balanced budget, President George W. Bush cut taxes, started wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out - all without paying for them. When I tried to get Democrats to help pay, they told me: "Republicans wouldn't help us in 1993 and we're not about to pay for Bush's spending now." Gridlock! Paying for all its wars, depressions, recessions, etc., it took the United States over two hundred years to incur a trillion dollar national debt in 1981. President Bush increased the national debt $5 trillion in eight years. Now, President Obama has increased the national debt $7 trillion in six years.

A lady asked my advice to run for the U.S. Senate. I immediately asked her: "Can you raise $500 million?" She exclaimed: "Five hundred million? You're crazy!" A contested race in SC for the U.S. Senate would cost $10 to $12 million and the candidate has to raise half of it to show his or her electability before Washington Committees help with the other half. The Supreme Court has caused Congress to lose control of the government; to lose the art of compromise and to enable the rich to buy the office. Money is a cancer on politics.

Congress has tried for thirty years to excise this cancer with McCain Feingold, public finance, etc. But the cancer can only be excised by passing a Constitutional Amendment: "Congress is empowered to limit or control spending in federal elections." Once empowered, Congress can then limit spending. Senator Strom Thurmond and I were limited in 1973 by so much per registered voter - about $687,000.

Congress has an advantage in fundraising. Located amongst 10,000 lobbyists in Washington, Congress fundraises morning, noon and night. It opposes a Constitutional Amendment to limit spending in elections because it doesn't want to lose its advantage. Once the voters understand this, we can limit spending in politics and the art of compromise in Congress will be restored.

Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2015, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. Today, Hollings continues to be influential in public affairs and offers this website as a compendium of current and past positions on public issues. Learn more about Fritz Hollings.

The Hollings legacy

Click here to learn more about Hollings' impressive and distinguished record of public service.


2016 commentaries

2015 commentaries

Previous commentaries

Read the book

The University of South Carolina Press in 2008 published Making Government Work by Sen. Hollings. Learn more.

Receive commentary via The Huffington Post

Please visit Sen. Hollings' section of The Huffington Post where you can get an RSS of his columns, subscribe by email or use social media.