The United States today

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


JULY 13, 2015 -- Imagine a democracy where public office is bought rather than being attained by the will of the people.

Imagine a democracy that is run by lobbyists instead of a dually elected Congress.

Imagine a democracy in gridlock because of unlimited spending in campaigns.

Imagine a democracy that believes that Corporate America should build a strong economy for China but not for America.

The U.S. Congress limited spending in elections in 1971 and in 1973. President Nixon signed the '73 law. In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court reversed the limit by equating free spending with free speech. Hiring a campaign manager or taking a poll is spending not speech. Walk into a TV station and tell the manager you want your free speech and soon you'll find yourself out on the sidewalk.

In 1966, Republican and Democratic Senators got together every Wednesday night - coats and ties off, drinks, becoming fast friends. We limited spending in elections in 1971, 1973 but the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo voided the limit. After Buckley, Senators started raising money against each other. The Republican and Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committees took over the fundraising. Partisanship set in. In 1993, Democrats cut spending $250 billion and raised taxes $250 billion, without a Republican vote in the House or Senate. Gridlock loomed. Lobbyists with the money took control of Congress. Lobbyists tell the Speaker or Leader when to call the vote. Lyndon Johnson couldn't run the Senate today.

President George W. Bush was given a balanced budget in 2001. He cut taxes, started wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out - all without paying for them. Democrats said: "We couldn't get Republicans to help in 1993. We're not about to pay for Republican spending now." Gridlock! President Bush increased the national debt $5 trillion in eight years. Now, President Obama has increased the national debt $7 trillion in six years. The richest country in the world borrows a half trillion each year to keep the doors open.

A lady asked for my advice to run for the U.S. Senate. I immediately asked: "Can you raise five million dollars?" She exclaimed: "Five Million? You are crazy!" I explained that a contested race for the U.S. Senate in SC would cost $10-$12 million and you had to raise half of it to show Washington that you were electable. Seeing you electable, National Committees will help because they are as anxious as you to keep the seat. In my seventh time to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, I raised and spent $8.5 million. Of course I had six years to fundraise. Located in Washington with 10,000 lobbyists, Congress raises money morning, noon and night. The Senate particularly doesn't want to give up this advantage. Gridlock could be solved and Congress could retake control of the government by a simple Constitutional Amendment: "Congress is empowered to limit or control spending in federal elections." In 2002, '03, and '04, Republicans wanted to vote on a flag burning amendment to the Constitution and asked that I withhold my Constitutional Amendment to limit spending. I refused and no Joint Resolution was considered my last three years.

One hundred sixty four countries compete in globalization with a Value Added Tax that's rebated on exports. The Corporate Tax is not rebated. The U.S. manufacturer pays the 35 percent Corporate Tax and China's 17 percent VAT on his exports. A U.S. manufacturer can't produce a volume of products profitably because a competitor can produce the same product in China, import it tax free and put the manufacturer out of business. The Congress could replace the 35 percent Corporate Tax with a 5 percent VAT which releases $2 trillion in offshore profits that could be repatriated tax free by Corporate America to create millions of jobs, boost the middle class and eliminate income inequality. Last year's Corporate Tax produced $327 billion in revenues. A 2014 5 percent VAT would have produced $898 billion, permitting Congress to balance the budget in two years rather than ten. But Wall Street and Corporate America want to keep the offshore profits flowing so they contribute to the President and Congress to do nothing. The President and Congress do nothing.

This is the United States today.

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.


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