Thomas Sowell

IT IS NOT often that conservative talk-show host extraordinaire Rush Limbaugh and Harlem's left-wing Congressman Charles Rangel are in agreement on anything. But they both say that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which has just passed the Senate to such great fanfare in the media, will never actually become law.

Moreover, they say it for the same reason -- that neither Democrats nor Republicans want campaign finance reform, so that it is just a question of which party can maneuver the other into being the one that is going to be blamed for killing it. Or maybe the Congressmen can take political credit for voting for campaign finance laws, while relying on President Bush to veto it or the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

Such is the moral fiber of our elected officials, whose purity we are trying to save from corruption by outside interests that make campaign contributions. It never seems to occur to many in the media that perhaps it is the politicians who are already corrupt and who demand tribute from businesses and others in the form of campaign contributions.

Remember Al Gore's telephone calls from the White House, telling various businesses how much money he expected them to contribute? They weren't beating down the White House gates, trying to get inside to force money into the pockets of those inside. Businesses were being summoned to pony up. No one said that refusal could lead to OSHA inspectors, IRS agents or others from the vast Washington bureaucracy descending on these entrepreneurs' factories or offices, or new taxes or red tape being imposed on them by Congress. No one had to.

No one expects big money to stop pouring into the coffers of politicians, even if the McCain-Feingold bill survives the House-Senate conference, gets signed by President Bush and -- most unlikely of all -- gets approved as constitutional by the Supreme Court. Why then is so much fuss being made about this bill? Because it has become a popular cause and it makes people feel good -- regardless of what consequences it may or may not have.

Campaign finance reform is just one of many causes being pushed because they make people feel good, rather than because of any actual net benefit to the public. Nor are liberals the only ones doing this. Conservatives are sponsoring Congressional legislation to promote moral training in the public schools. Whatever chance such legislation has of getting passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, it has virtually no chance whatever of accomplishing what its sponsors proclaim to be its goal -- strengthening traditional morality, including sexual abstinence, through school-based programs.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate