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Monday, March 26, 2012

American Government: “ Backroom Power Politics “

Backroom Power Politics
By Marek Dutschke         24 March 2012
The American political system is designed so that white, well-to-do landowners call the shots.
Translated By Ron Argentati

Edited by Casey J. Skeens

Germany - Handelsblatt - Original Article (German)
Corruption runs rampant through U.S. state governments. At the federal level, at least insider trading by representatives is now set to be banned. A long overdue step.
The American political system is designed so that white, well-to-do landowners call the shots. George Washington made his fortune through land speculation and by disenfranchising the native population. The same is true of his first electoral victory in 1759, as a representative to the colonial parliament of Virginia (House of Burgesses). Because of his profitable real estate transactions, he was wealthy enough to devote all his time to politics. In order to ensure he got enough votes, Washington would treat eligible voters to a proper night on the town before he deposited them, still drunk, at the polling place. In a way, that fusion of politics and business interests survives even to this day.
A study by the Center for Public Integrity released last Monday had little good to say about state politics in America. Most state governments are rife with corruption: budgetary decisions are hidden from public view, rules are not enforced, money from lobbyists goes unreported and the influence of private business is given a prominent place in governmental matters.
Between 2007 and 2008 in the state of Georgia, more than 600 gifts were given to government officials by businesses seeking to do business with the state. Despite the fact that such bribery is strictly against existing laws, no one was punished for giving or accepting the gifts. In Maine, a state senator simply “forgot” to mention that in addition to his government job he was also CEO of a corporation that had been given $98 million in contracts by the state.
In North Carolina, a member of the state legislature introduced a law that would make it easier to put up gigantic advertising billboards. It was soon discovered that the member happened to also own a billboard company. Despite the matter being investigated by an ethics commission, no hint of any conflict of interest was uncovered since competing billboard companies would also be given the opportunity to bid on those contracts as well. Representatives in Montana are regularly treated to dinner by lobbyists and are exempt from reporting such largesse as long as the restaurant tab stays below $2,400. The list of offenses goes on and on.
In the Hands of Corrupt Officials
Despite the fact that the existence of this swamp of corruption is widely known, Mitt Romney nevertheless wants to take control of social assistance programs away from the federal government and give it to the individual states. The most vulnerable in society are to be dependent on corrupt state officials in order to get their help. As a concession to remedy this miserable state of affairs, federal officials are now promoting improvements.
On Thursday, the Senate decided to forbid insider trading for its members. That law goes into effect after Obama has signed it, something he has not yet done. So right now, it's still completely legal for members of Congress to buy and sell investments while they have access to inside information. For example, a senator serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee might see a confidential memo concerning a planned terrorist attack on a particular airline. A quick telephone call to his broker would enable him to dump his shares in that airline.
The rationale for the business-as-usual procedure up to now is a complete mystery and the new law is sorely needed. It appears, however, that the new law didn't arise out of political conviction but rather because of electoral considerations: Congressional approval ratings have sunk to an all-time low of 10 percent, and politicians hope to lift that figure up before November.
The question now is whether these latest political developments in America are merely a continuation of George Washington's practice of paying for the pre-election booze parties or whether they're making him roll over in his grave.

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