Archive for corruption

Exploring the Roots Corruption: How did we get here, and how do we get out?

Posted in Constitution, Elections, Get Active!, News, politics with tags , on December 12, 2008 by Randy Streu

Though it is not completely without a sense of schadenfreude that I watch the Chicago Democrat party implode, this recent Blagojavich scandle has gotten me thinking about the nature of political corruption in general.  And about the simple fact that, as much as we’d like it to be, the Republican Party is not immune to the corruption of power, any more than the Dems appear to be.

In recent years, voters have seen more than our share of corrupt politicians, engaged in everything from prostitution and sex scandles to buying votes on the senate floor to the pay-for-play antics like those of the Chicago Gov. 

But where does it come from?   Frankly, I believe it comes, primarily, from two places.  First, as the saying goes, “power corrupts.”  You’d have to ask a psychologist about the effects being voted into a position of authority can have on the ego.  But I think we can agree that those effects are certainly evident in many cases.  Secondly, put simply, we the voters allow them to get away with it — often with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and occasionally, without even that.

Let’s explore this second point first, because I know some readers will have several probelms with the idea that we, the voters, are to blame for party and government leadership not holding politicians accountable.  Do you remember Bill Clinton?  That big, overblown scandal that occurred just because Bubba got a little head in the Oval Office?  People claimed that too big a deal was being made about the President’s extra-marital affairs.  Those merits can be argued (though, personally, I believe our leaders ought to be held to the highest of standards), but to do so misses the point entirely.  The problem wasn’t that he violated the sanctity of the Office, and potentially posed a national security risk by letting his intern go down on him in the National Holy of Holies.  The problem was simply that he broke the law.  He lied under oath.  That is a crime.  It is a small, white-collar crime, but illegal, nonetheless.  But the Gatekeepers of popular opinion (AKA the Mainstream Media), Congressional Democrats and even many voters chose to ignore this simple fact because, after all, he was the most powerful man in the world.  Surely such a small thing shouldn’t take down such a powerful person!

And it is precisely that attitude which allows corruption to flourish in state and national power center coutry-wide.  Those in a position of power should not be held to lower standards than the public, but higher.  Leaders lead.  When they fail to be good leaders, it becomes the duty of the citizen to disqualify them from the role.  And, if it is others in power to whom that duty falls, and they also fail in it, then it is our duty to vote them out as well, in favor of those with a correct view of authority.

The other problem goes back to that quote I mentioned: “Power corrupts.”  True enough.  But there’s that pesky follow-up: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  As more information about Blagojavich comes out, we find people talking about his “instability,” as though this were something about which many of those who helped get him into power already knew.  So why is it that they still worked to install him into the Governor’s chair?  Basically, because he was a Democrat. 

If it is indeed true that “power corrupts,” and that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” it must also follow that the more power given to a person or entity, the more potential for corruption exists.  In short, the most basic reason corrupt officials keep getting elected is because we don’t have any other options.

The Party system controlling American politics ensures that only a select group are presented to the voters for election, and of that group, only two are actually serious contenders for a given election.  George Washington warned of exactly this circumstance, and has since been poo-pooed by even Conservatives as “out of touch.”  Nonetheless, it is indeed the Party system which denies the voter a real set of options, and continues to make possible the re-election of those who would sell us out for financial gain, those who disrespect the office to which they are called to serve and those to dishoner their country and fellow countrymen by acts unbecoming leaders.

I will go into greater detail on the party system and how it has corrupted American government at a later date.  For now though, we work with what we have. 

And what we have is a dirty system, peopled by dirty politicias.  It is time for a cleansing, in every party.  It is time, if we must deal within a party system, to stop allowing those who disgrace America leadership to continue to do so.  They are not serving us, but themselves, and it is high time they were routed out.  It is time for voters to make it our business to know what our elected officials are up to, what they know and what they do with that information, who they talk to, and what decisions they are making.

It is time to clean house, starting with Blagojavich, and anybody we can take down with him.  And when we’re done with him, it’s time to move on to national politicians.  Get mad, folks.  Get very mad.  And then, get even.

Tracing the Market Melt Down

Posted in civil rights, Constitution, Economy, Elections, politics with tags , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by heapotrouble

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122298982558700341.html

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122290574391296381.html?mod=article-outset-box

 

Having read these articles, many others, and relying on memory that becomes less trust worthy with time, I think it is naïve, or politically contrived to pin the blame on any individual, administration, or party. There is plenty of blame and demonstrated incompetence to go around.

 

I read one article that traced the roots of the current crisis to the Johnson administration. The author made the case that in order to get Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac off the federal books to support spending for the war in Vietnam, Johnson privatized both of these organizations. Because it was politically expedient to obfuscate the true relationship between the federal government and these mortgage corporations, the implication was let stand that they operated with the full backing of the Federal Reserve. While this was not true, the stock price of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac soared on initial public offering because of the implied safety. This swelled the corporate coffers and entrenched a culture of inordinate risk and cavalier risk assessment.

 

Another article I read cited the Community Redevelopment Act of 1977 and the Carter administration as “ground zero” in the current fiasco. By law, these lending institutions were required to meet quotas on minority lending to borrowers that would not normally qualify. Again, it was implied that the Federal Government would cover any losses due to loan default. The program expanded to include not just minorities but all borrowers who would not ordinarily qualify for mortgage loans.  

 

Yet another article blamed the Reagan administration for “deregulating” the mortgage industry. However, it does point out that this deregulation began during the Carter years. It goes on to say that the problem wasn’t that the industry was under-regulated, but that it was poorly regulated. Laws were enacted to meet political needs of elected officials of both parties that did not serve the public in the long run, but did serve the immediate political needs of the representatives.

 

More recently, I think you will remember two incidents that seem to have escaped wide publication. The first was the lost opportunity to mobilize the nation in the wake of 9/11 when President Bush advised the public that the best way to beat Al Quida was to “keep shopping.” That put the consumer credit lenders on notice to open the flood gates. The second was during a State of the Union Address. I can not remember exactly which one, but it was early in the Bush administration. The President voiced his goal that “all Americans should reap the benefits of home ownership.” Once again the signal was received loud and clear, not only by mortgage lenders, but by enabling politicians whose near term political goals coincided with the President’s vision, and once again we were off to the races.

 

I think all these instances can be grouped into two broad categories. The first is where the motivation is noble, but the logic is tragically flawed. The politician truly desires to better the lot of the electorate, but doesn’t understand the root issue. Home ownership is a sign of prosperity. If it becomes easier to obtain credit to buy a home, the owner becomes prosperous with the purchase of a house. Continuing that logic, if the government were to buy everyone a Lexus, Mercedes, or BMW, we’d all be considered “rich” and could afford higher taxes. This group proves once again the old axiom; “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

 

The second broad group is as dangerous as the first, but much more pernicious. They are the ones that see the Treasury as an extension of their campaign funds. They use the power of the pen to enact legislation that will direct common resources to benefit their constituency, and support their re-election. In effect, they buy your vote with my money, and visa-versa. This, unfortunately, has become the Washington way of doing business. The McCain-Feingold Act attempts to address this issue, but while trampling the Constitution under heel, misses the point. Because the bill did not address the root cause; there is so much money in politics because there is so much money in government, it serves as the “incumbent protection act” and does more harm than good. Once again, the road to hell…

 

The unfortunate part is that come January, none of this will change. McCain, while he preaches systemic change, is too impulsive to look beyond the surface and address root causes. He is a bull in a china shop, and he doesn’t mind bringing his own china shop. Obama sees change as implementing expanded policy and legislation, delivering more power into the hands of the very people who have brought us to this crisis, either through benign incompetence or malevolent self promotion.

 

In either case, I fear we will get the change promised. But we will find out that disaster is also a form of change.