Cut the Corruption!

piggies cakeAmericans don’t like their elected federal officials very much.  A few months ago Congress’ approval rating hit a rock-bottom 9%.  While their rating has rebounded slightly, President Obama’s just hit an all-time low.  Granted, the approval ratings are a pretty dumb measurement:  I might dislike a given official because she is too liberal, while my neighbor might disapprove because she is not liberal enough.

Still, it’s fair to say we don’t think all is going swimmingly in Washington, DC.

I think a major contributor to our disrespect is the daily reporting of corruption in our nation’s capital.  It permeates the White House.  It fouls the air in the Senate chambers.  It slimes the floor of the House.  The Republicans smell.  The Democrats stink.  The reflecting pool on the National Mall has become a cesspool.

While government corruption is not a new phenomenon, it sure seems to be more widespread lately.  Our president shamelessly funnels wads of cash to campaign bundlers.  The administration’s leadership posts are filled with party hacks and cronies whose only qualification is the ability to extort money from corporations.   Most of our congressmen have “leadership PACs” which allow them to accumulate ridiculous sums with no strings attached to their spending on lavish lifestyles and backroom political deals.  Many, like Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Roy Blunt, have armies of relatives at the public trough through questionable employment, purchased political offices, or shady lobbying relationships.  Our DOJ and SEC choose (or are assigned) political targets and then find (or write) obscure regulations to either punish them or take their lunch money.  At the same time, proven billion-dollar thieves like Obama cash-bundler John Corzine slither past the enforcers scot-free.  The IRS blatantly targets conservative political opponents, an Obama campaign contributor is assigned to investigate, and then the head honcho pleads the fifth.

Corruption was once driven by outsiders seeking favors from vulnerable DC politicians.  Now the mojo is on the other side.  Peter Schweitzer points out in his blockbuster book, “Extortion”:

“In Washington today corruption is driven more by extortion than by bribery . . .  Our reform efforts have been almost exclusively devoted to restricting the activities of these special interests – in other words, ourselves – as opposed to the activities of the Permanent Political Class”.

Schweitzer suggests bans on contributions and solicitations involving lobbyists and government contractors, and contributions from anyone during congressional sessions.  He would restrict the selling of votes (which, believe it or not, is now perfectly legal), prohibit family members from employment and lobbying, and ban leadership PACs.

I would take it a step further.  We need to get our congressmen out of Washington, DC and back to their home districts to face their constituents the majority of the time.  In this era of instant electronic communication, elected officials no longer need to schmooze face-to-face with their counterparts and with the concentrated purchasing power of DC lobbyists.

The Corruption Cake, frosted with seemingly endless layers of DC money, must be replaced with something healthy.  Soon!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideCut the cake!
Don’t you know that I’m a greedy man

Cut the cake!
Don’t you know that I’ll do the best I can

Cut the Cake – by Average White Band

Funkiest . . . band . . . ever!  and man, have they aged well.  Enjoy this great video by the Average White Band from Scotland.


Boehner, Reid and Friends Are Playing Us for Fools

cartoon courtesy Rhode Island InsiderOur federal government is dysfunctional.  Everybody knows it.

Most people blame the polarization of politics in America today.  The Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything because they have deep ideological differences, right?

Maybe not so much.  Our entrenched political leaders in Washington – Democrats and Republicans alike – are less driven by ideology than they are by money.  This is nothing new, but it sure seems to be accelerating.

The untold secret, closely guarded by the press and the political oligarchy, is that politics inside the Beltway is hopelessly corrupt.  The average American assumes that lobbyists work for big, evil corporations seeking to buy political favors.   Sadly, the opposite is more often true.  Our political leaders live and breathe to extort money from corporations, fattening their campaign coffers and their own wallets by promising (or threatening) to pass (or not pass) legislation that will affect profits.  They write bills specifically for the purpose of shaking down a given company or industry – often writing and then erasing the same proposals over and over to generate fresh cash with each iteration.  Democrats and Republican leaders frequently collude on legislation, agreeing to pass it after all palms have been well greased.  Legislative leaders repeatedly stall votes until the appropriate ante has been paid.

Peter Schweizer’s book “Extortion – How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets” lays out the schemes in non-partisan detail.  Here’s an example:  In 2011 the Wireless Tax Fairness Act, written specifically to help AT&T and Verizon prevent local taxation on cell phone bills, was stalled in the House, waiting for a floor vote.

“Everyone expected Boehner, given his general aversion to raising taxes, to support the bill and hold a vote.  But as the months went by and mid-October arrived, it was unclear whether the vote would ever come.”

“Members of Congress from both parties had their hands out.  Employees of Verizon and AT&T wrote over two hundred checks totaling over $180,000 to the campaign committees of members of Congress during September and October of 2011.  Finally, he declared a vote for the bill on November 1, 2011, and on the day before the vote, Boehner’s campaign collected the toll: thirty-three checks from wireless industry executives, totaling almost $40,000.  Twenty-eight of those checks came from executives with AT&T.  The day of the vote, employees of Verizon sent twenty-eight checks to members of Congress.”

“The tribute had been paid.  The vote was held.  The Wireless Tax Fairness Act passed the House easily on a voice vote.”

Actually, the more polarized the Democrats and Republics seem to be, the more money they can raise.  They love conflict, and work hard to preserve it.

Let’s stop being naive.  There is a reason why the United States has slid to 19th place on the “least corrupt government” ranking by Transparency International.  There is a reason why Congress writes thousands of bills for every one that is passed.  There is a reason why Congressmen begin their careers with modest wealth and end them fabulously rich.  There is a reason why a lobbying firm will frequently work for both Republicans and Democrats.  There is a reason why so many lobbyists are related to politicians.  There is a reason why the president’s campaign contributors get federal contracts.  There is a reason why 154 (and counting) tax breaks are written to be “extended” every year or so instead of put in place permanently.

It’s called corruption.  But you will never hear the press talk about it, and to this point no candidate has mentioned it.

The framers of our Constitution didn’t build in malware that would stop corrupt individuals from taking financial advantage of their positions.  They relied on the voters to elect people of character.

We can’t afford to send one more corrupt or corruptible person to Washington.  We must fight to remove Pelosi, Boehner, Reid, McConnell and Obama.  Our last, best hope is the Tea Party – until we get principled people in the positions of leadership in Washington, DC nothing will change.

The Democrats and Republicans have played us for fools for far too long.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Everybody plays the fool,
They use your heart just like a tool.
They never tell you so in school
Everybody plays the fool.

Everybody Plays The Fool – the Main Ingredient