MIKE MASTERSON: Pryor speaks out

A corrupt system

Posted: October 24, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

If you're anything like me, you've wondered why nothing's been achieved in Washington since the nation sent a majority of Republicans to control the House, Senate and Oval Office.

Weren't they supposed to clean up gawd-awful messes left by lawmakers who've come and departed, many with lucrative pensions and cushy positions in the private sector?

It didn't hurt them to have spent years in the public arena where they controlled our country's wasteful purse strings and future direction, after having been created in a free-market economy with individual liberties.

Although you and I haven't waded inside the Beltway swamp, we've harbored justified suspicions about the level of deceit and corruption that pervades the way things don't get done for the common good. The process is beyond disgusting, considering all the money being contributed and good-ol'-boy deals cut to benefit special interests.

I've written before that in his farewell address, George Washington warned us against embracing political parties rather than electing unselfish individuals with spirits devoted to serving the public's interest.

Washington understood how the hearts of elected officials in power would be drawn to ego-driven party loyalties over allegiance to crucial larger needs and welfare of the nation's people.

And just look at the disgraceful mess we've created in a relatively short period in our purported democratic republic.

The larger point of today's column is to thank our former Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor, who validated my thoughts and feelings the other day by explaining what's definitely behind much of the permeating dysfunction.

Pryor, 54, who lost his senate seat to Republican Tom Cotton in 2014, explained the mess to the Political Animals Club of Northwest Arkansas. He held few, if any punches, as a one-time top-tier insider on the Hill who's experienced why things don't work in D.C. "People are frustrated with government because they feel nobody in it listens to them," he said. "Guess what? Nobody is listening to them."

In a story by ace political reporter Doug Thompson, Pryor explained the corrupt system embraced by the system today makes both parties at fault, along with the ghastly U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2010 Citizens United case. That decision basically allowed corporations to make boundless, undisclosed contributions to political candidates.

Pryor was in the Senate during the Citizens United ruling which, he explained, "allowed unlimited, secret money to be spent in campaigns. Campaign money should never be unlimited or secret." Amen, Senator.

Yet isn't this our nation's highest court that's supposed to be guiding through impartial fairness and constitutional restraint? Truth is, Washington is dismally broken and corrupt to its core with the controlling desires of special interests and the untold millions they regularly give to those supposedly serving we the people. The majority of members of Congress are reported to be millionaires now. Wonder how?

"The system we have is very corrupt," Pryor said, explaining that it's not in the traditional sense of crooked politicians stealing from the public; instead it's campaign finance keeping voters from having any meaningful say. And Pryor accurately announced that we the frustrated tens of millions are in no mood to take such a dishonest system any longer.

Donald Trump tapped into that frustration, regardless of what some think of his politics, Pryor said. Trump addressed the hunger from voters to become relevant and heard.

Despite his often crude and bombastic style, bolstered by ill-advised tweetings over relatively trivial and unseemly matters, Trump for many represented refreshing change from what for years have become contrived, calculated bigger schemes toward radical social engineering while reducing our nation, its culture, economy and defenses to far less than previously.

So count me among those pleased to hear our former senator honestly address significant parts of the machinery behind these destructive approaches in this country that offers the planet's last hope for preserving and enhancing individual liberties.

Senator Pryor had more to say: "All over this country, there are small towns with plants that have been closed down and jobs that have been lost. There are real problems to be addressed. But if a member of Congress tries to address those problems and deviates from the party line in any way, you face a very strong risk of having an opponent in the next party primary who is better funded than you are."

Another way of saying it: Either do whatever the party wants, rather than what the people you serve might say, or face political extinction.

Pryor did toss a bone to 3rd District Republican Congressman Steve Womack as an exception to congressmen cowed away from representing their district or state. "I have known Steve since he was the mayor of Rogers, and he is really in touch with the values of his district," Pryor said. "If Steve ever decides not to run for the House again, that's a bad sign."

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 10/24/2017