March 12, 2007

Decadence, Waste, Corruption in the New American Empire [Part II]

by Rodrigue Tremblay

 

"The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts. And then to the army, and finally the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors."

Plutarch (c. 46 A.D.-127 A.D.)

 

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics."

Plutarch (c. 46 A.D.-127 A.D.)

 

"It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do."

Andrew Greeley

 

Corruption and moral bankruptcy take many forms. They are usually the end results of an insatiable lust for money, power and privilege, above and beyond any common decency. And money in politics is at the nexus of nearly all forms of corruption.

 

In the United States, for example, big money is so central to politics and to the functioning of political parties that anybody running for high office, even if he or she is personally a millionaire, is obliged to court those who have the big cash. Many good candidates thus refuse to enter into, or soon bow out of presidential races, because they do not want to submit to this kind of prostitution. As a consequence of the deals that must be made to raise the huge amounts of money required to be successful, it is difficult for any administration, once elected, not to get entangled in a web of scandals. Indeed, big cash is the key to influence in Washington D.C., and cash used to bribe politicians ultimately leads to greed and scandals. It happened to the Nixon administration (Watergate scandal), the Carter administration (Lance scandal), the Reagan administration (Iran-Contra-cocaine scandal), the Clinton administration (Whitewater scandal) and now, to the Bush administration.

 

There was the Enron scandal, the Abramoff scandal, and the Tom Delay scandal. In the aftermath of the Enron scandal, for example, it was made public that Enron spent a total of $5.8m on American federal elections, over a period of 12 years, with 73 percent of the money going to Republicans. Globally, 71 out of 100 senators and 188 out of 435 House members benefited from the company's largesse. President George W. Bush himself, a staunch opponent of any campaign finance reform, received $826,000 from this single Texas company over a period of eight years, since he first ran for governor of that state. —This seems to be all part of a pervasive culture of corruption.

 

The revelation that super lobbyist Jack Abramoff offered $100,000 to meet President George W. Bush and top adviser Karl Rove to push for legislation of his liking is an indication how things can degenerate quickly, even in the most solid democracy. Super lobbyist Abramoff was one of George W. Bush's principal fundraisers, earning the honorary title of "pioneer" in his fund-raising organization. And, in what is typically American, both Abramoff and Delay said that 'God' was somewhat behind their actions. –For one, Abramoff confessed that "I felt that the resources coming into my hands were the consequence of God putting them there. " –And, in Delay's words, "I firmly believe I'm innocent of the charges against me. We believe that God in fact is in control and indeed he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord." This is an indication that for some, religion and political corruption do mix.

 

In fact, what money buys in Washington D.C. is access to those in positions of power, direct influence on the framing of public policies and preferential allotment of jobs and juicy contracts. Corruption of civil servants and Congress by lobbyists follows. Political corruption quickly becomes a vicious cycle: The corrupters select the politicians they want to see in office by dumping tons of money in their campaigns, while the politicians thus selected are anxious to pay back their benefactors by opening jobs of influence and by dishing out rewarding contracts to them. —And the wheel turns. In particular, why do you think all leading Democratic presidential hopefuls this year are calling for an unprovoked American attack against Iran? It is because the big money contributors they are soliciting are pro-Israel hard-liners. Those who pay make the policy.—That may be the overriding reason why 60 percent of Americans do not bother to vote, come election time. They are not apathetic; they only know that plutocracy is not democracy and that there is not a chance in hell that the system can reform itself. Plutocracy is the government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. This is a far cry from the Lincolnian view of democracy of "a government of the people, by the people and for the people."

 

When Paul Wolfowitz, the principal technical architect of the war against Iraq, went from the U.S. Defense department to preside the World Bank, the world had a vivid demonstration how corrupt the American political system could be. Wolfowitz had no formation (political science) or experience in finance, but was nevertheless named to be president of the important World Bank for services rendered. Another example is the curious spectacle of Dick Cheney, a member of the American Enterprise Institute and a former CEO of Halliburton Energy Services, who, in 2001, chose himself to be George W. Bush's vice-president (he was Bush's Vice-Presidential search committee) and as chairman of the president elect's transition team found himself in charge of naming most of the high officials in the new Bush administration. How could he manage to do that, one may legitimately ask? Also, why did George W. Bush, on March 25, 2003, sign executive order 13292, giving Cheney the power to declassify intelligence and granting the greatest expansion of the power of the vice-president in US history? Why did Dick Cheney end up having so much power within the Bush administration that George W. Bush once even joked about 'President Cheney'? No political scientist that we know of has found satisfactory answers to these questions.

 

Another form of corruption in America may be derived from the first type. It comes from the fact that while the super rich gorge themselves on cost-plus military contracts and tax cuts, the poorest Americans are becoming relatively poorer. Indeed, economic inequality in the U.S. has increased markedly between 1979 and 2006: During this time, more than a quarter century, incomes adjusted for inflation of those at the top increased 34 percent, incomes of those at the median increased by 11.5 percent and incomes of those at the bottom have remained about stagnant, increasing a meager 4 percent over 27 years. —Recent reports have also shown that the percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high as the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" has continued to widen.

 

In 2005, for example, 35 million Americans went without enough to eat. This is due to the fact that 13 million American children, or 17.8 percent, were living in severe poverty. And, with the cost of health care increasing each year in the two digits, some 47 million Americans find themselves in the precarious situation of not being covered by any health insurance, all the while their government is wasting billions and billions around the world.

 

But perhaps the most insidious corruption in a democracy occurs when elected officials are not truthful with the people and rely on lies and propaganda rather than truth in the public discourse. Then confidence and trust are destroyed, and so is the moral fiber of the nation.

 

Such public corruption is often accompanied by the corruption that feeds political corruption, the corruption of the media. When the government and the media are both corrupted, all the other forms of corruption follow. The increasingly incestuous relationship that exists between large segments of American media and the government is harbinger of things to come. Indeed, propaganda machines seem to have replaced genuine investigative journalism in many media organizations where a cohort of "useful idiots" and yelling village idiots feel free to engage in public campaigns of disinformation and of outright lies.

 

When this happens, confusion and disarray result, and this is when the worst mistakes are made. The 2001-2007 episode will go down in history as such an instance when the American people were lied to, both by the Bush-Cheney administration and by the major American media.

 

This has led, indeed, to a show of massive incompetence and to the monstrous American moral and financial corruption, which has been observed in Iraq, where the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith-Bremer wrecking crew went on a rampage that did great and irreparable harm, not only to Iraq, its economy and its people, but also to the United States, to Americans and to the international system of law and justice. The gross misuse of money, the suspension of the right of "Habeas Corpus" and the reliance on torture techniques in occupied Iraq (Abu Ghraib) are only the tip of the iceberg of what has the potential to be one of the biggest corruption scandals in American history.

 

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Rodrigue Tremblay lives in Montreal and can be reached at  rodrigue.tremblay@yahoo.com

Also visit his blog site at www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.

Author's Website:  www.thenewamericanempire.com

 

Check Dr. Tremblay's coming book "The Code for Global Ethics" at: http://www.MoralityWithoutReligion.com

 

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Posted, March 12, 2007, at 5:30 am

 

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