Monday, October 26, 2009

Defending Peter Brown (Sort of)

Mayoral candidate Peter Brown has reportedly spent about $2.4 million of his own money to finance his candidacy. Rumors are that he is willing to spend millions more. Not surprisingly, this is raising eye-brows and accusations--both implicit and explicit--that he is trying to buy the office.

I must admit that spending enormous sums of one's own money in order to secure an elected office raises some questions in my mind. Presumably, someone with enough money to drop millions on an election has some financial acumen. So I would assume that they spend their money with the intent of getting a reasonable return on the investment. But what return is there from holding an elected office?

The more cynical among us might think they do it for financial gain. While undoubtedly many politicians gain wealth as a result of their positions, I don't think that that is why most people run for office. And certainly not those who already have a boat load of money.

Holding a political office offers something that no position in the private sector offers--power. And more specifically, political power. While some might argue that businessmen have power, such claims evade the distinction between political power and economic power:
The difference between political power and any other kind of social “power,” between a government and any private organization, is the fact that a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.
I think it is power-lust that drives most individuals to "buy" a political office--they seek the ability to impose their views and values upon others by force. I can, and have, made a strong case that this is what Peter Brown seeks.

I seriously doubt that Annise Parker--who has questioned Brown's spending--would turn down $2.4 million in donations. But Parker, like most local politicians, would need to acquire such financial support in small chunks. To raise $2.4 million in $25, $50, and $100 increments requires a lot of donors, which is very difficult. Since Parker hasn't beaten Brown in the financial department, she will try to beat him verbally by calling his spending into question. She implies that there is something morally wrong with putting one's money where one's mouth is. There isn't. In fact, I wish more politicians would put some of their own "skin" in the game.

Compared to Gene Locke, Parker has been relatively mild regarding this issue. Last week Locke unleashed one of his pit bulls, Jew Don Boney, who claimed that Brown is trying to buy the black vote:
“Peter Brown is spending millions of dollars in this mayor's race because he can't match Gene's longtime record of service,” former City Councilman Jew Don Boney, associate director of the Mickey Leland Center for World Hunger at Texas Southern University, says in the ad. [a radio ad] “But our community is not for sale."
Locke repeated this charge during Saturday night's mayoral debate and then upped the ante:
Mr. Brown is trying to buy the election, not just in the African-American community but across the city.
Here is a news flash for both Locke and Boney: You, and virtually every politician, buy votes by promising government favoritism to those who vote for you. What is your campaign primarily about? It is about appealing to certain groups--groups that hope to benefit if you are in office. Groups that will exchange political support for government favors. If you truly think that votes aren't for sale, then either you have not been paying attention or you are more intellectually dishonest than I thought.

The truth is, Parker and Locke lust after the same position as Brown, and for very similar reasons. Brown just happens to have the money to finance his campaign without begging every Tom, Juan, and Jew Don for a donation or endorsement.

In case I haven't made it clear over the past year, I'm no fan of Peter Brown. But how he spends his money is no business of mine. I only wish he would extend the same courtesy to me and other Houstonians.

You see, Peter Brown wants to tell me (and you) what I can do with my property. He wants to develop a "plan" for the city and then shove it down my throat. He wants to continue Bill White's "greening" of Houston and make sure that I caulk my windows and insulate my attic (not literally). He wants to be the maestro of Houston's economy, deciding which industries will thrive and which will not. He wants to expand the power and scope of city government, and somehow he's going to do it without raising taxes.

Politicians love to tell us that they won't raise our taxes. What they don't tell us is that their proposals will make our life more difficult. They don't tell us that we will have to spend more money when we go shopping because they outlawed efficient and reasonably priced advertising (such as billboards and "attention-getting devices"). They don't tell us that they are going to destroy jobs by making it more difficult to do business, and thereby impose more costs on taxpayers because those same politicians demand that we help those in need.

Perhaps Brown can enact his proposals without actually raising taxes. But his proposals will cost us more, in time and in money. Developers and builders will have to spend more time groveling at the feet of city bureaucrats to secure permission to pursue projects in accordance with Brown's "blueprint". The costs and delays associated with this boot licking will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher rents, higher housing costs, and a higher cost of doing business.

If Brown has his way, projects such as the Ashby High Rise will be impossible. And the affordable housing provided by such projects will never materialize. Many of the victims of this injustice will never know that the reason they must spend more for housing, or endure a longer commute, is because of the city's policies.

And to address traffic congestion, Brown will force us to pay for more light rail, despite the fact that it seems to attract more accidents than riders.

So, while Brown is eagerly spending his own money in his campaign for mayor, he is doing so to attain the power to subsequently spend my money and your money. He can do what he wants with his money. I greatly resent any thought on his part that he has a right to spend mine.

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