Archive for the ‘Political Cronyism’ Category

Cronyism and the Wreckage of a Nation

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

cronyism_ftOne of the topics that comes up in conservative circles is the notion of “Crony Capitalism.” It’s a term that was re-introduced into the popular political vocabulary by Sarah Palin in the era of the Tea Party’s ascendancy, and with good reason: Too often, our politicians are for sale to the highest bidder. More often, the politicians actually use their influence as a sort of legalized protection racket. The powerful, very wealthy people and institutions are able to fork over large amounts of money to politicians as an obvious quid pro quo for the politician’s help, support or protection. Like anything else, however, I detest the misleading association between the two words: “Capitalism” and “Crony.” The problem is that the concept described by the term “Crony Capitalism” isn’t “capitalism” at all.  It’s just “cronyism.” Capitalism doesn’t operate this way. Cronyism does, so for my purposes, and for the purposes of discussion on this site, as a matter of justice to the concept of “Capitalism,” I’m no longer going to aggregate the two distinct words into a single term.  Capitalism is the greatest economic system ever conceived or practiced, because it requires respect for the individual rights of participants.  Cronyism knows no such boundaries, and is merely a form of graft and corruption disguised within and operating in the shadows of capitalism.  It’s time we make this distinction, but more, it’s time we consider both sides of Cronyism’s ledger.

Politicians who peddle influence and who use their position as a form of de facto protection racketeering are scoundrels of the highest order.  From the early Tammany Hall chicanery to the latest scandals in our modern era, the politicians should bear most of the blame, because upon their shoulders rests the highest moral culpability, for two basic reasons: One cannot purchase that which is not for sale, and the seller of influence/protection is the person who raised his or her hand to swear an oath to the Constitution.  The purchasers of influence/protection can only buy what is offered for sale, and they didn’t swear an oath to uphold the constitution or the laws enacted thereunder.  The fact that they are slightly less guilty does not let them off the hook, because they’re guilty of a serious moral breach: They’re cheating the system, and they’re undercutting the actual free-market process that is capitalism.

Let us consider the much-celebrated case of a theoretical businessman who offers the members constituting a controlling majority of a national government cash, kick-backs, and other material favors and/or prestige if they will support his latest venture.  There is no doubt but that every member of that controlling governmental majority who accepts such an offer should be placed behind bars, and never let loose again in elected office.  What of the businessman?  What should be done to him?  Should he be permitted to walk away Scot-free, to perpetrate the same crime over and over again?  Should he be held to account?  If so, by whom?  The same scoundrels with whom he conspired?  The truth is that in most cases, both parties, even caught and exposed, walk away mostly unscathed, which is why they continue to do so, over and again. Most often, the wrist-slapping goes to the purchaser of favors and protection while the seller abruptly retires from political office if the heat becomes too great. Most of the time, however, they get away with it.

Mark Levin has recently popularized the notion of using the Article V process to amend the constitution by action and amending conventions instigated by the states.  It’s still very early, and it will take a long time to bear fruit, but if the American people press it, it could become a movement that gains traction.  I think this is the natural process for amending the constitution to address the problem of cronyism.  The only way to stop cronyism, or even slow it substantially, will be to give the law really big, sharp fangs, and to make it more certain that the buyers and sellers of favors, influence and protection will be apprehended in a timely manner.

The mechanisms and triggers built into such an amendment would need to be very precise to limit prosecutorial abuses, and political misuse of the law. That’s always the difficult part, and it’s why such an amendment ought to be considered thoughtfully, but also at the soonest possible opportunity. In terms of the sanctions against offenders, I consider that to be the easy part:

  • Forfeiture of all property, money, of the individual and/or organization
  • Subject to the same individual, criminal sanctions as in treason, i.e., a capital offense

Who would administer such a law?  The Justice Department has proven to be wholly incapable of operating outside of political influence and chicanery. Leaving such powers under the umbrella of the Executive would be wholly unacceptable.  Leaving it under the control of the Legislative branch would be no more plausible, for the reasons already discussed. Lastly, placing it under the existing Judicial branch, that owes its continued funding to the Legislative branch and its appointments to the Executive seems no more fruitful. It might even require the establishment of a very limited fourth branch of government with the sole responsibility of investigating and prosecuting under the constructs of this single amendment. How we would get any of this accomplished in our current political system is questionable, and I make no claims to know the precise methodology for success, but something must be done in this vein.

Our entire political system is rife with corruption.  It extends from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue all the way down to Anytown, USA. Most of us turn a blind eye to it, or simply shrug in helpless acknowledgement that we’re in serious trouble. A relative few of us participate in it, and that’s more the shame.  What we are witnessing with the widespread proliferation of cronyism, on both sides of its ledger, is the absolute destruction of our republic. Do you need an advantage over your competitors? Is there somebody or something you need to bulldoze? Simply beat a path to the controlling jurisdiction’s door and buy your advantage or demolish your target under cover of the law you’ve purchased. Do you need more money for your campaign coffers? Simply threaten legislation against an industry and watch them fill your coffers as a method of self-defense.  They’ll happily pay protection money for their interests.  The little guy, without deep pockets? He’s got no prayer.  He will either be steamrolled by the politicians whose influence he cannot afford, or bull-dozed by their customers, with whom he cannot financially compete.

There are most assuredly two sides to the cronyism coin.  It exists at all levels of government, in both parties, almost end-to-end. We have effectively lost our country to it, with no end in sight but for the demise of America as we had known it. Whether you’re black or white; man or woman; rich or poor; able or infirm, this system of cronyism is going to consume us all, one by one. Every one. No matter how big you think you are, there’s always somebody bigger.

Political Deal-Making: Does It Matter to You?

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

It's a Deal! Or Is It?

The old lament about the legislative process contends that it’s like making sausage, in that while the final product may taste great, the process of making it can be downright ugly.  In politics, that’s frequently the case too, as people make back-room deals for support and endorsements and future patronage jobs, and for conservatives, it all begins to take on a stench that has nothing in common with sausage.  We see the deals after they’re made by the politicians we once admired, and they seem to be speaking on behalf of us, but at no time do they seem ever to ask our opinions, and there’s a presumption about our continuing support when they change directions.  The recent story about Ron Paul is an example of this sort of thing, wherein what he may be angling for with his current campaign may not be the presidency, but something much less important.  If that’s the case, it makes one wonder what other sort of deals may have yet to be brokered or revealed as we race on toward the nomination.

We all like our politicians to be pure in this regard, and whatever our political stripe or whomever our particular candidates, we want to know that they will stand staunchly and mostly implacable against political tides and trends rather than rushing out to meet them, in seeming surrender to what may turn out to be a political fad.  This has been one of the knocks against Newt Gingrich, for example, as he sat on the couch with Nancy Pelosi to talk about “global warming” just a year before the ClimateGate scandal poked the theory full of ethical and logical holes over rigged science and nasty backroom politics.  Of course, Gingrich is hardly alone on this score, and there are some who still claim to be aboard on the issue.  For instance, Mitt Romney still insists Global Warming is real despite the mounting evidence of pseudo-science with a political agenda, but now he allows that perhaps it’s not man-caused after all.  These sorts of shifts really drive conservatives crazy, because we see this as revelatory of a lack of clear principles, or worse, the tendency to become suckers for fads.

One friend asked me if it wasn’t true that they all make deals, and I told him that most do as a matter of practicality.  For instance, Ronald Reagan accepted George HW Bush as his VP nominee after a bitterly fought campaign.  You and I might have had some trouble doing that, because we’d have seen the elder Bush as part of the trouble the party faces, and it is true that by the end of the second term, the Bush clan’s influence was on the rise, and frequently caused trouble for Reagan.  Nevertheless, he did so in an attempt to unite what had been a very divided party in another fractious primary campaign season.  It helped bring the establishment a little way back into the fold, which helped to get their money for the campaign, but did not give them all the power they wanted.  Would you say of Reagan that he had been too compromising, or would you contend like so many others that he had the wisdom of a statesman in choosing George Bush?  The fact that he won doesn’t prove anything, except that his decision was at least as valid in electoral results as any alternative we might now imagine.

As we push forward into the campaign season of 2012, we’re beginning to see alliances form and take shape.  We’ve seen a number of significant endorsements, and a few voter “recommendations,” but the season is young and I expect we will yet see many more.  There are those who are scrambling to leap into bed with Mitt Romney, and while they may see it as an expediency they cannot avoid, voters will watch with great interest, particularly conservatives, to see who ultimately sides with whom. The irony in these situations always happens later, when it something happens along the way to upset the conventional wisdom now in force.  For instance, at present, many see Romney as “inevitable,” but a few weeks like the last one, filled with gaffes and reversals will be enough to perhaps cause him to crash and burn.  In that case, you must then wonder if we arrive at the convention with somebody other than Romney as the front-runner, what will happen to those who had earlier supported him?  They will change to support the nominee in most cases, but they’ll be left to explain why they picked the loser first in such a scenario, calling into question the value of their support.

Conservatives at once hope the rare politicians they admire will choose wisely, and keep their powder dry until there’s no alternative but to speak up or go down to defeat, and we may soon approach that moment when a whole parade of endorsements either fall on Mitt Romney or go elsewhere.  When that happens, it will be either a sign of an open war within the GOP or a sign that the battle has entered a nervous internal cease-fire in order to first defeat Barack Obama.  In honesty, I hope for the former, because I’m not satisfied yet that we have a candidate who can withstand what Obama will heap on him, and I don’t think we’ve yet seen more than a small sample of what Obama will be willing to do.  For now, Obama is focusing on Romney, and expending a lot of time, effort and money tackling him.  If Romney turns out not to be our nominee, Obama will have chased along the wrong trail and that by itself will have given us something about which to laugh.

I think we shall see deals, promises, and all sorts of things happen before this primary season concludes, and while this is a sore spot for many conservatives who can smell a compromise of our principles from a mile away, at the same time we must at least consider the long view, and measure them each on the basis of their merits.  We will ultimately be happy with some, and disappointed by some more, but it won’t matter if we win.  On the other hand, if our nominee loses, today’s deal-making will cause no shortage of political blood-letting later, as the blame-game begins.  Win, lose or draw, I believe that on the day after the election, we may see whatever war was paused within the party re-ignite with new fervor, and I must say that I am keen for that fight.  Like most conservatives, I think there has been far too much compromising of principles along the way, and that has landed us in our current national predicament.   Our movement needs to begin to reassert itself not only at the polls, but in elected office.  We need to develop an under-card of newcomers who we can promote and move in, and those that warrant it will eventually move up, but along the way, there will be deals made.  Make no mistake about it.  The question for conservatives must be:  What are the terms, and at what point does the palate-pleasing become something we can no longer stomach?

Flash: Romney’s Florida Spokesman Sabotaging Allen West?

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Payback?

LegalInsurrection.com is reporting that Congresman Allen West’s seat will come under severe challenge because of the way it will likely be redistricted by this the Florida legislature, and the person leading that effort is a Romney spokesperson Representative Will Weatherford. Legal Insurrection‘s conclusion is that while they’re using the excuse of complying with law, what they’ve done is draw a district in which Allen West will no longer be able to win because they’ve given some of his areas of greatest support to other districts in redrawing the boundaries of his.  Indeed, the district could have been drawn differently, and what LI is inferring from all of this is that West’s failure to endorse Romney is going to have significant consequences: Allen West will likely lose his next race there, and it’s being seen by some as punishment by the GOP Establishment for his failure to support Romney.

Is this possible?  It is the kind of political garbage that frequently occurs, and it is the preferred methodology for the establishment to rid the party of somebody who doesn’t toe the line.  That the politician responsible for leading the effort in Florida to draw the boundaries for the redistricting in Florida happens to be a Romney spokesperson certainly does raise eyebrows.  As LegalInsurrection reports, there was a website set up, SaveAllenWest, but as they point out, it may be too late. The point to be understood in all this is important, and it is that this is the dirty methodology by which people are punished by the establishment, and you can bet if Romney gets the nomination, such tactics may yet visit a redistricting near you.

Congressman Allen West, freshman superstar, and retired Army Lt. Col, gave a speech on Saturday night at an event that culminated with Herman Cain endorsing Newt Gingrich, who then made some remarks.  Newt Gingrich is in an all-out battle with Mitt Romney for the Florida Primary on Tuesday.

For me, the question is: Why would the Florida legislature sabotage the district of a popular freshman conservative republican in Congress?  Ordinarily, they would seek to tweak the lines in other ways, but the fact that they’ve settled on this approach suggests to me that there could well be a political vendetta at work here.