BY VERN TURNER
While listening to a news program that featured an interview with the recently released lobbyist Jack Abramoff, I was struck by his candidness and his sneering sarcasm directed at the current slate of politicians vying for presidential strata and those embedded in the swamp known as Congress.
Abramoff not only described and confessed [again] to the sordid details of elected officials on the take, but how eager they all were to partake at the trough of greed and graft.
He went on to say that the way to fix this deep and inherent corruption was to eliminate every single item of value [“…not even a glass of water”…] from the lobbying process for any and all elected officials and their staffs.
Abramoff also said that he now accepted term limits for elected officials and that they should never, ever be allowed to work for any organization that has anything to do with government or civil service.
This was directed, of course, at people like former Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich who claimed to be an “historian” for Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac.
I couldn’t help but think how 185 weeks in the joint clears someone’s mind, including one as devious and manipulative as Abramoff’s. Then again, common citizens and would-be pundits have been pointing out these happenings and solutions for years.
Former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan has pushed a national movement to get the money out of politics. To my sense of what is right and fair, getting the Constitution amended to make all electioneering publicly funded, overturn the ludicrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and do what Abramoff suggests about lobbying is paramount in fixing the CAUSE of our national malaise and problems instead of just nibbling at the symptoms.
Another summary of facts and truth written by the esteemed journalist Fareed Zakaria appeared in a recent edition of the Washington Post. He asked the question, “What would make our economy grow?”
He immediately debunked the canard about businesses being over-regulated, over-taxed and interfered with by government by citing a World Economic Forum survey that puts the United States fifth on their overall economic competitiveness. He added that the World Bank published a report that looks at business activity around the world where the United States ranks No. 4, behind a handful of tiny countries. As is the case with the World Economic Forum, that ranking has not changed much over the years.
Furthermore, the Kauffman Foundation, which looks at U.S. entre¬pre¬neur¬ship, found that in 2010 out of every 100,000 Americans, 340 started a new business every month. That rate hasn’t changed much in the past few years and is only slightly higher than in 2007, before the recession. Regarding regulations, the Bloomberg News analysis found that the Obama Administration has not reviewed or issued significantly more rules than its predecessors.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] said recently that measured tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product indicated that The United States came in 27th out of 30 countries.
Taxes are historically low today, the lowest since the early 1950s. The complexity of the U.S. tax code does limit economic growth and competitiveness.
The World Bank finds that the only category in which the United States is not in the top 20 is “paying taxes,” where it ranks a miserable 72. [The U.S. ranking has shifted from 76 in the 2008 report to 46 in 2009 to 61 in 2010.] The report adds that tax reform that eliminates the loopholes, deductions and credits – and the inherent corruption related to them – would clearly help the economy.
There are those who whine about government being too big, spending and taxing too much, controlling our lives too much, invading our freedoms too much and all the rest. When the truth comes out and the data is validated and the confessions corroborate, the fact is that the citizens haven’t done their jobs.
We haven’t elected the right people to make the right laws for the right reasons. We’ve allowed corruption to invade our government, who we then blame for corruption and malfeasance.
There is an election coming next November. There are petitions to sign. There are votes to be cast. It is our duty to fix the government rather than just despise it.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. His latest book is A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, available through Amazon.