One Lockout Ends, Another Rages On in Washington, D.C.

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Millions of Americans rejoiced yesterday when a fierce negotiation involving billions and billions of dollars resulted in a deal that both sides are content with. No, I’m not talking about the debt ceiling impasse, which continues to threaten the economy, and America’s reputation all over the world.

The NFL lockout ended on Monday, saving a football season, and preserving the longevity of a $9 billion dollar a year industry. One major reason the two sides were able to come together on an agreement is that despite being locked out by the owners, the players still had a strong voice in the process. With representatives whose sole objective is to look out for their constituents (the players), they are able to go toe to toe with the billionaire owners.

That is where we find a critical difference between the NFL and Congress. While the players and owners are able to bargain on relatively equal footing, too often in Congress the American people have no footing at all. Drowned out by millions of dollars in corporate and special interest money, and scores of lobbyists reminding members of Congress where that money came from, the American people don’t have a seat at policy-making table.

And we’ve seen the results. Gridlock in the debt ceiling fight (among countless other issues). Taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil continue, despite record industry profits, while we pay a heavy price at the pump. Wall Street gets a slap on the wrist after bringing our economy to the brink of collapse, and then fights the regulatory reforms that were passed into law in the aftermath.

Big money interests win. The American public continues to lose. Simply changing the “players” by “voting the bums out” every two years hasn’t made a difference. Congress has the lowest approval rating in the history of such polling. The problem isn’t necessarily the players; it’s the game.

Until we have system that doesn’t rely solely on raising huge amounts of campaign cash each election cycle from the very entities Congress is supposed to regulate, we’ll be stuck having the same conversation about why government is dysfunctional and Congress isn’t looking out for the people.

There is an option that would put voters back in control of our elections, and ultimately our government. The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 750, H.R. 1404), currently before Congress, would allow federal candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want.

Under our current system, the American people are essentially locked out of the political process. Fair Elections could lift that lockout and give ordinary voters a stronger voice in who is elected, how they are elected, and whose interests they will look out for when elected.

One game was saved this week, with all sides able to claim victory; another slogs on with only one loser: the American people.