Sunday, 24 July 2011


Legalized corruption is widespread and that's the job of 35,000 Washington, D.C., lobbyists earning millions upon millions of dollars. They represent America's big and small corporations, big and small labor unions and even foreign corporations and unions. They are not spending billions of dollars in political contributions to encourage and assist the White House and Congress to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. They are spending that money in the expectations of favors that will be bestowed upon them at the expense of some other American or group of Americans.

This power helps explain, for example, why a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, not to mention its chairmanship, is so highly coveted. For the right price, a tax loophole, saving a company tens of millions of dollars, can be inserted into tax law, a la the Charlie Rangel scandal. At state levels, governors can award public works contracts to a generous constituent. At the local levels mayors can confer favors such as providing subsidies for sports stadia and convention centers. When politicians can give favors, they will find buyers.

The McCain-Feingold law was to get "money out of politics" but more money was spent in the 2008 election cycle than ever. The only way to reduce corruption and money in Washington is to reduce the power politicians have over our lives. James Madison was right when he suggested, "All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." Thomas Jefferson warned, "The greatest calamity which could befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers."

Politicians throughout the world spend outrageous amounts of taxpayer money for their own entertainment, vacations, and personal lifestyles at a time that they are asking the general population to tighten its belt. I remember the press making a major issue of how much Pres. Obama spent on his recent trip to India - reportedly several tens of millions for a few days. Maybe part of of that was hype or misinformation, but there seems to be a pattern of very high spending with a President who came to office amid very hard economic times.

High spending of taxpayer money for personal matters (trips, parties, etc.) is taking place not just among both Republicans and Democrats, not just in the US but in most countries around the world where politicians enjoy ostentatious lifestyles befitting of the "rich and famous." In fact, the lines between modern politicians and movie stars or rock stars has blurred to the degree that political leaders go out of their way to live and behave like movie stars or rock stars.

The symbolism of such conduct just strikes people as "plain wrong," undemocratic, because their politicians project the image that they are closer to the "rich and famous" than to the average citizen who has to work for a living; this at a time of global recession and high unemployment when people who want their politicians to set the example of "proper conduct" in all domains for the rest of the nation. Having said this, I do not mind if they live like the "rich and famous," provided they pursue policies designed to benefit people in all respects from creating higher paying jobs to social programs. Can there be politics without money behind it, driving policy, politics that earns the label 'democratic'? In my view, as long as there are elites, financial or otherwise, democracy is an ideal toward which society aims!

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