The ongoing corruption of our politics and finance

Our political and financial systems are increasingly becoming indistinguishable from organized crime. Seriously. I mean, they’re barely bothering to hide it. Both parties are awash in those concealed bribes called campaign contributions. Financial executives who committed multiple serious felonies are not prosecuted. The federal government bails out out insolvent institutions then gives them sweetheart deals that the rest of us don’t get. We the taxpayers are forced pay for bankster recklessness as they continue to make enormous profits at our expense. Large corporations pay lobbyists to game the system with special tax loopholes so they pay no taxes.

If you are in doubt about whether all this counts as corruption, then apply the Polizeros Banana Republic Rule. If such behavior happened in a banana republic, would we call if corruption? If so, then it is corruption here too.

“Corruption is strangling the land,” Steppenwolf once said. But it’s worse than just corruption. We are seeing a genuine collapse of ethics and honesty. The social contract that keeps us together is breaking down. Fewer and fewer care about the common good. Instead it’s about whatever can I grab and screw the law. There is a moral rot in this country and the elites are infected the worst.

We have few, if any, role models who genuinely inspire in positive ways. There are no leaders of national stature who are saying the corruption must end, that laws must be enforced regardless of who you are, that drug money has corrupted our banks and hedge funds. Rather than speaking the truth we get empty platitudes from politicians and CEOs, and the looting continues.

You think I’m exaggerating?

Drug money laundered by banks kept financial system going during 2008 financial crisis, says Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. And of course the banks, hedge funds, and Federal Reserve know where the money comes from. If you knowingly take dirty money, then you yourself become dirty too.

Wachovia laundered billions from Mexico drug cartels and got off with a fine and no criminal prosecutions. Our government has said the reason TBTF banksters aren’t criminally prosecuted is because it would be harmful to the banking system. But this means laws are selectively unenforced. Tell me, how can a teenager be expected to respect the law when the federal government doesn’t? That’s what I mean by a collapse in morality and ethics.

Florida Times-Union

Banker criminality demands prosecution, yet there have been no prosecutions against the top banksters. Will our federal law enforcement agencies ever truly act? Or are they just captured agencies? Mainstream media avoids the topic almost completely. All that sweet insider access they get would vanish should they start seriously investigating corruption.

Corruption never has been compulsory yet sociopaths increasingly occupy positions of power. At a time when we need real leaders to clean up the mess, there are none.

Joe Bageant said only a few fundamentalist preachers get what the real problem in the country is, even if their solutions are wrong. Not to get all theological about this, but when morality and concern for the common good disintegrate, societies often follow. We’re going wrong. And have been for quite some time.

So what is to be done? First off, let’s stop referring to our fellow citizens as dumb or sheeple. I think most people have a real good idea what’s going. But they aren’t sure what to do about it yet. We need broad-based coalitions across all party lines. Lots of people, regardless of their politics don’t like the corruption and want it to end. This is a force that can be harnessed. Then, let’s toss out all the defeatism and moping. Tyrants and thugs can be overthrown. It happens a lot in history. It’s happening now in the Middle East. Protesters there are fighting against severely repressive, vicious governments and winning. We can do.

Finally, get mad, get animated, get creative, and fight back.

'Over'? Did you say 'Over'? Nothing is over until we decide it is!

We The People are far more powerful than the criminals in executive suites and in D.C. when we act together.


  1. Nice summary! Two points to add. First, when all the other candidates are taking the bribes, you don’t get elected unless you take the bribes too. Thus corruption has become compulsory, and the system is rotten.

    Second, there are plenty of people who understand the problem and have solutions to offer. It’s not just a handful of evangelical preachers with a wrong idea. There are evangelicals who are appalled at our (and their preachers’) lack of concern for the environment. Also check out (for example) the Protestant Social Gospel, Catholic groups like Pax Christi and the Catholic Worker, and Engaged Buddhism. The local and slow food movements, Sarvodaya USA, the Conscious Community Network, Commonway Institute, the Common Society Movement. Hang out (as I did even though I’m not Catholic) in the Campus Ministry office at a liberal Catholic university and listen to the politics. The answers are there, and so are the people.

    But this won’t get fixed by running one of these people for President. There is no top-down solution. Top-down is the problem. The solution is local. The only way of creating it is through a vital grassroots movement. And that means we need a committed and charismatic leader.

    • Back on another planet when I was president of the Marina Mar Vista Venice Democratic Club in L.A., we helped a candidate win his first term to state office, then a few months later at a little meeting asked for his thoughts on campaign finance reform which he had championed. He paled, got tongue-tied, mumbled something, and changed the subject. My impression was he’d discovered very quickly that things were vastly more corrupt than he’d ever imagined possible.

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