Politicians are Employees of Corporations

Written By Ryan Stancil

Posted July 30, 2014

Flying, at the very least, can often be an annoying endeavor.

From long security lines to cramped seats, the modern flying experience is a textbook example of sacrificing comfort for convenience for many people.

But if there’s one positive to flying, it’s that the airlines are at least transparent.

When you book plane tickets online, the price you see is the price you’re going to pay to get to your destination. The cost of flying may sting, but you at least know what you’re getting into from the start.

It wasn’t always like that, though. Until 2012, the airlines were able to advertise one price and then charge more when you actually booked your flight thanks to hidden fees and taxes.

And the House of Representatives is looking to revert us back to that practice.

Rogues in the House

Bill Shuster, a republican who represents Pennsylvania’s 9th congressional district, introduced the ironically-named Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 in March, and saw it passed by the House on Monday. The bill would make it so that airlines could do what they did before 2012: advertise the base price but hide taxes and other associated fees so long as they have an asterisk or some other note that points to the true cost of the flight in fine print.

“Talk about the nanny state. Give me a break. What do they think, Americans are idiots?”

That’s Peter DeFazio, a democrat who represents Oregon’s 4th congressional district and is one of the bill’s 50 cosponsors.

At the risk of repeating the Marsha Blackburn episode from last week, these politicians claim that their reasoning for introducing this legislation has everything to do with fighting what they see as government overreach.

The truth is, just like with representative Blackburn’s attempts to carry out the will of the telecom companies, Shuster, DeFazio, and their cosponsors on this bill are heavily backed by moneyed interests. In this case it’s the air transport industry. This includes companies like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. In 2013, Shuster’s campaign raised over $200,000 from the industry.

It remains to be seen whether or not this bill will die in the Senate, but the fact that it is being pushed at all is symptomatic of the way the game of American politics is played these days.

It would be playing devil’s advocate to say that our representatives are simply doing what they have to in order to keep their jobs. After all, if they turned down money from donors, it’s extremely likely that an opponent would be backed by those same donors in the next election and the incumbent would be crushed as a result.

Still, stories like this make it increasingly clear that the people we elect largely don’t have our best interests in mind, despite what they rehearse for the papers and Sunday morning talk shows.

Our political system relies entirely on fundraising for representatives to get into office and, since corporations were given personhood, they can “donate” as much as they want and push their agendas accordingly.

As that happens, politicians like Shuster, DeFazio, Blackburn, and countless others become little more than regular employees of these corporations. And that’s before they leave the public life and go on to work as lobbyists for some of these companies.

Keep your eyes open,
Ryan Stancil