With the swearing in of the 113th Congress, the media has been proclaiming the death of the Tea Party’s influence in Washington. This narrative is certainly not accurate, though is true that the establishment has garnered more sway since Election Day than it has had after the 2010 elections.
One primary example of this took place in the Republican Study Committee (RSC). One of the finest groups of Republicans in the House, the committee recently put out an innovative proposal to change this country’s outdated and draconian copyright laws. The proposal met with rave reviews from savvy right-wingers and online technology magazines alike. Here, we finally had a group of Republicans embracing fresh thinking, reaching out to a new demographic and appealing to younger voters. Unfortunately, the applause turned to shock when the RSC pulled the memo the very next day.
Americans boast that our country is better than the corrupt nations in South America. Sadly, this is increasingly inaccurate when one looks at the laws under which all Americans live. Take the “fiscal cliff” deal, for example. Democrats proudly stated taxes went up on the rich. Republicans proudly stated they prevented tax increases on most Americans. Yet what was mostly ignored in careful media releases were the billions in special tax credits and loopholes reinstated by the law for NASCAR, Hollywood, Goldman Sachs, the wind industry and many other connected special interests.
It seems even the best of the conservatives in the House aren’t immune to this kind of corruption, as evidenced by their pulling the copyright reform memo so quickly. To top it all off, the RSC fired Derek Khanna, the staffer who wrote the memo, the same day the establishment’s preferred RSC Chairman, Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, took over. The charge was unofficially led by Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, whose district includes part of Nashville, Tennessee. Mrs. Blackburn’s spokesperson subsequently attacked Mr. Khanna and the memo for “bizarre ideas.” Apparently, copyright laws that are good for the public – but bad for country music’s bottom line – are “bizarre.”
This begs the question, what is bizarre about believing that a potential $900,000 fine for downloading six songs off the Internet is disproportionate? (Mr. Khanna’s memo cited potential fines up to $150,000 for one copyright infringement.) What’s unreasonable about punishing corporate lawyers for making false copyright claims that are made to intimidate ordinary citizens into silence? Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech in 1963, and he passed away in 1968. Why in the world shouldn’t that speech be in the public domain by now? How does it serve the American people to have 70-year-old scientific papers still locked away under copyright laws? Instead of trying to write fair and balanced laws that weigh what’s good for the public with the interests of the copyright holders, the scale is tilted so far towards K Street and their clients that it’s sinking into the ground. Yet, when the RSC members finally took a step towards common sense reform, the entertainment industry lobbyists brought them to heel like dogs that had slipped their master’s leash.
Of course, copyright laws are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to collusion between big government and its Big Business buddies. For instance, the 2008 bank bailouts basically consisted of wealthy corporations asking Average Joe to “help” them out of a pinch they’d gotten themselves into. Also, $37 billion or 1 percent of the federal budget is spent on energy and farm subsidies, mostly to huge corporations.
The level of misdirection is staggering. Mitt Romney may have been Public Enemy Number One of the Occupy Movement, but it is Barack Obama who has collected more money from Wall Street than any president in history. Republicans try to sell immigration reform as a way to appeal to Hispanic voters, but how many of them are actually responding to business owners who are giving them campaign contributions in return for cheap labor? Mr. Obama railed against the insurance industry when he was pushing his health care reform, but many of the biggest insurance companies supported Mr. Obama over Mr. Romney because they stand to make millions once the law goes into effect.
Our political system isn’t broken. It’s working just fine. Unfortunately, the average American is not the person the system is designed to help. While effective copyright reform wouldn’t make the system as a whole better, it would be a good first step towards reclaiming a government of the people by the people. The RSC should stop letting lobbyists and the establishment tell it what to do, and proudly display Mr. Khanna’s memo as Exhibit A in a new, dynamic direction for the conservative movement, and for America.