Hey – didja know that the United States is incredibly corrupt? I know, shocking.
Honestly, there was a time when I believe corruption was a thing that happened in poor countries, and that it wasn’t a problem in the United States, but sometimes I just have to take a moment and marvel at just how corrupt my home country is. Today’s edition of “and here I thought they couldn’t get any lower” was the requirement that lead paint be used in public housing projects – expected to mostly house minorities. Like – I knew lead paint had been everywhere thanks to lobbying, and it was worse in redlined neighborhoods, but I didn’t know that the lead lobbyists actually got it required.
Reparations can’t happen soon enough.
There’s more in the video, of course, I just had to vent about that particular bit of shitfuckery.
That really depends how you define corruption. By most measurements, the US federal government is among the least corrupt in the world.
We have a lot of safeguards against corruption in this country, and lobbyists are heavily limited in what they’re allowed to do. For instance, I’m a registered lobbyist, and it is illegal for me to so much as buy a coffee for Nancy Pelosi’s administrative assistant. Any donation I make to a political campaign have to be reported to the federal government, and my organization is required to limit the fraction of its budget it spends on lobbying in order to remain tax-exempt. The hours I spend on lobbying have to be counted and reported quarterly.
Lobbying in this country is remarkably mundane. There are no backroom deals in smoky, dimly-lit rooms. It’s a lot of persuasive writing and networking with staff. Working with federal agencies is particularly boring. The FDA really doesn’t care how well-funded your organization or company is, they only care about data.
Aside from just being persuasive on the issues (in the classical sense), campaign donations are just about the only tool that companies and organizations have. That can be significant leverage, and it’s a problem – one which Citizens United made a lot worse. But it means that the most a company can do for a politician personally is to get them re-elected, meaning that strong public opinion can easily counteract lobbying efforts.
Which is why in all of the examples in the video, companies had to campaign to persuade public opinion. Which is why corporate disinformation campaigns (AKA, “marketing”) is a huge issue – but it’s not “corruption” by most definitions.
Abe Drayton says
Lobbying in the US also has industry groups literally writing legislation, so forgive me if I’m not persuaded by those so-called safeguards.
The definition has been gerrymandered to provide loopholes for shit like stock trading with privileged information, like so many members of congress very obviously do.
If we define corruption so what we do is not corruption then we are not corrupt. Q.E.D
I live in Australia and our government is reasonably corrupt, influenced by fossil fuel and property developers. Could be worse of course, and the various lobbying groups are working on that.
Abe Drayton says
I had a moment in Zanzibar, when a cop seemed like he was trying to shake me down in some way. He thought it was suspicious that I had a residence visa, and quizzed me in Swahili about who I was and what I was doing. I think the worst-case scenario there was that I might have had to pay a “fine” or something.
It’s also possible that I misinterpreted what he was doing, but at the time, it felt like what I’d grown up expecting from “corruption”.
In the U.S., the cop could have just taken all the cash I had on me by deciding that I was “suspicious” and using it for something bad. I don’t know how often cops take bribes or do protection rackets, but there’s a degree to which they don’t need to, because they have laws that are designed to let them take people’s shit legally.
Alternatively, “we’re so corrupt we’ve even corrupted the definition of corruption”.
Apparently my reply yesterday got eaten.
I wanted to make the point that, yes, lobbyists (both industry and nonprofit) write legislation. That’s because Congressional offices don’t have the bandwidth to keep on staff enough legal and subject matter experts to draft effective laws for every market, field of practice, or aspect of society out there.
The whole point of lobbying is that Congress does not have the expertise or the resources to understand the topics they are legislating. That’s the way things are, and I don’t see any feasible way to change that fundamental fact.
And now that my comments aren’t being eaten, I also added a bit about how the STOCK Act of 2012 was intended to curtail Congress using insider information to gain personal wealth. I am not aware of any evidence of widespread profiteering among members of Congress. They are a wealthy bunch, yes, but they tend to start out that way.
Abe Drayton says
Sorry about the comments getting eaten – not sure what that was about.
And I believe the video covers some circumstantial evidence, beyond, you know, all those people who sold stock right before the market crashed because of COVID, and the remarkable skill that Pelosi and her husband seem to have when it comes to picking investments that happen to relate to stuff Congress is working on.
have a well staffed and funded public service to develop policy? there are still biases and interests there, but as a process it’s more amenable to democratic pressures