Money, Campaigns and Fiscal Reform

Special Guests: Lawrence Lessig

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“I think there are a million fiscal issues that we should be thinking about more because obviously it is our children who are going to bear the burden of our profligacy,” said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor who had a brief presidential campaign in 2016.

But Lessig also said that a critical step toward achieving fiscal reform is election reform.

During the latest Facing the Future program he discussed political process reform, including campaign finance changes and ranked-choice voting.

Lessig lamented current campaign financing in the country.

“How are members of Congress going to think sensibly about tradeoffs between short-term and long-term . . . when they are spending all of their time sucking up to people who have a particular agenda?”

He also shared the story of a congressman who stood on the House floor arguing in favor of recent tax legislation because his funders said that if he did not get it passed, he should never call them again.

In addition, Lessig criticized “the way gerrymandering makes it so that extremists control what happens in Congress.”

He praised ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates beyond their first choices on ballots. He said this could change the way candidates think and campaign; they would have an eye toward gathering a broader base of support, rather than dividing and conquering in a primary.

He said what struck him when running for president was that people thought about many of these issues in silos, but he is excited now that people appear to have come around to recognizing that a package of reforms is necessary.

Government and public relations consultant Jim Merrill also joined the program to discuss what the New Hampshire primary is like for presidential candidates and voters.

Merrill, who has run several campaigns, said the primary process is intense but also invigorating and energizing.

“You run hard, you run to win, and at the end of it you come together and break bread,” he said.

He said that campaigning has evolved over the years as technology has changed.

“I think the successful campaign marries up tactics from the past, which are really those interpersonal one-on-one skills, and all the various tools we have at our disposal today,” Merrill said. “But there’s no question it’s changed.”

Merrill said that average voters in New Hampshire are heartening: They are well-informed and not afraid to ask tough questions.

“The average New Hampshire voter . . . puts you in very human moments,” he said. “I think that’s one of the real beauties, and eternal value, of the first-in-the-nation primary.”

“New Hampshire has proven time and again that it gives the underdog a chance and it’s a great equalizer,” he said.


Hear more on “Facing the Future.” I host the program each week on WKXL, (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.

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