Am I the only one, or did anyone else notice that Political Corruption is rampant in our Political System? Be it National, State or Local politicians, every time a rock is turned over, some crooked "elected official" slithers out.
Now you will probably point out that it only seems that way, because the news only covers politicians when they are found with their hands in the cookie-jar. And while I agree that scoundrels are more newsworthy than honest upstanding citizens, it still seems to be almost a daily denouement. We hear about politicians taking bribes, getting kickbacks, going on junkets at taxpayer expense, practicing nepotism, using campaign funds as personal accounts, avoiding taxes, hiring prostitutes on our dime, prevaricating (lying) without compunction, and many more. Now considering that we ONLY hear about the ones that got caught, we can start to fathom the extent of the sleaze.
I recently saw someone quote that "Crooked politicians give a bad name to the other 10%". This is meant to be funny, but it is probably understating the truth.
So why is this happening, and is there anything that can be done about it?
To understand the reasons for all this festering moral decay in the Public Sector, we have to delve into the workings of the human psyche. But since I am limited to the scope of this post, here is the bottom line in a nutshell. Man is a creature of his environment, and he/she is driven by wants and needs. If one is raised with emphasis on honesty and morality, he will absorb these traits. If the upbringing de-emphasizes honesty and ethics, the person will easily bend rules to his wants. Unfortunately, the absorption of one's surroundings and environment isn’t mitigated as one gets older. If one is surrounded by evil, it will eventually rub off, if one is surrounded by greed and corruption, he can't help but be influenced. The degree of the influence depends on the strength of one’s baseline convictions.
Simplified, people get into politics basically for one of two reasons.
1. For the ideals of making a difference to the community and to humanity.
2. To get power, influence and make lots of money etc...
The people in the second group are already primed for corruption from the get-go. They will accept it and seek it out. People in the first group, on the other hand, start out wholeheartedly seeking ideals, the truth and the moral high ground. They will try their best, and for a while they'll succeed. But if you spend time in a cesspool, the excrement will eventually stick to you.
The Rabbis in the Hebrew Talmud admonish their disciples to never place themselves in the path of temptation, because no matter how pious one may be, he is still vulnerable to the allure of temptation. We all are aware that countless temptations abound in Sodom and Gomorrah, aahh.. I mean, Washington D.C.
So can anything be done to return Honesty, Ethics and Sanity to the political scene? I don't know. What I do know is that now is the best chance to try.
We have seen that when the great "silent majority" of the American public gets involved in the political system and raises its collective voice in outrage, they can move mountains. The American Public is currently engaged in the Political Process, and now is the time to effect a cure. We will soon have fresh faces gracing the Capital hallways, people whose idealism has not yet been diluted, influenced and corrupted by the prevailing Washington mindset. We, the voters must demand governmental reforms, and we have to keep the pressure up on our representatives, both new and old, to sanitize our government.
So where do we start?
1. Term Limits. We can debate the length of the terms or the application of it equally or on a position-by-position basis, but there should be a LIMIT to a Politician’s “tenure”. The Presidency has it, now it's time to apply it to ALL elected offices. Let's not be in a position where a politician can feel secure that his constituents will re-elect him in spite of his "minor" felonious activities. (I am sure that we can all think of more than one such Politician.)
2. Create fiscal transparency of ALL representatives with annual audited disclosures of net worth, with the first such disclosure happening upon taking office, to set a baseline. Any unusual deviations from norm should be fully explained, and if needed, investigated. We shouldn’t have to wonder how an average candidate becomes a millionaire in a few years.
3. The Ethics oversight committee is to be an independent body. Do we get to be judged by our “friends” when we go to court?
4. All political contributions to candidates or elected officials to be disclosed. For expediency we could set a low limit of $20.
5. All political advertisements should be independently verified for accuracy and untruths publicly documented. Politicians are adroit liars, so this is important.
6. Set some kind of Spending Cap for campaigns. I realize that this is a hot-potato issue, but it could be done on a position by position case, and periodic adjustments could be built in.
I am realistic enough to realize that even if we bend our wills to reforming the political system, it will fall short of idealism, which is why the title of this post states “Minimize”. Just because we know that we can’t fix it, that’s no reason for NOT EVEN TRYING!
What do you think? Do you have any other ideas that should be tried? Do you think that I am way off base? Feel free to Comment.