Political office is supposed to be a service to society, but today it seems that politicians get power and money.
There has always been an element of power associated with political office, and I suppose that is why most capital cities have special laws that allow things that are not allowed anywhere else, such as legalized prostitution, access to fireworks and lower than average taxes. It’s also why most capital cities are a long way from where most people actually want to live.
But recently it seems that politicians have been awarding themselves much more than their fair share of goodies. Wage increases above everyone else’s, huge pension schemes, massive benefit packages, longer and longer vacations, even the right to insider trade and take money in exchange for influence.
This has been a concern since the Greeks had an empire, and philosophers wrote about an elite class that ruled but couldn’t benefit from the rules they imposed (Plato’s Republic), and the documented corruption of the senate in Rome (the fall of the Roman Empire).
Whenever politicians throughout history have given themselves too much power, the weight of the corruption that this in turn delivers has always led to the balance being reset.
It doesn’t matter what system has been in place, various capitalist systems, different types of democracy, fascism, socialism, communism and even the sycophantic Byzantine Empire model, which used titles and awards to reward people until those very people realized there was this huge lump of unguarded wealth protected only by purely corrupt words.
We now have ridiculously wealthy and powerful politicians across Europe and America, who seem only interested in furthering their own wealth by doing the bidding of those even wealthier than themselves.
The poor don’t have enough to pay a significant proportion of taxes, and the rich have enough to be able to avoid paying a significant proportion of taxes. Those in the middle have and always will pay more than they should. But when the poorer get poorer still, and the rich get even richer, then the middle has to pay even more. And politicians who don’t spot this early enough and allow the balance to shift too far get in trouble.
They can try for a while to pander to people with words about religious fervor, or scare people with stories about terror and those of a different color, but in the end they end up in trouble. The world has moved on from guillotines and now the trouble mostly comes in the form of impeachments, fines , humiliation and prison terms (hellos Blagojevich, hello Neil Hamilton).
And yet today we have a situation in the US where an almost infinite amount of money is spent to influence the political agenda.
It’s shocking that in exchange for money politicians add clauses into laws that directly reward those who pay them. There are actual laws in the US that mean that specific job titles in specific banking jobs pay lower rates of taxes than everyone else. Seriously Hedge Fund managers pay a lower rate of tax! People who earn their money off of stock trades pay less tax (as a percentage) than people who fight fires or dig holes.
We have had politicians who have run large companies, who have actually given no bid contracts to the actual companies that used to run and have huge investments in.
We have billionaires paying politicians to give billionaires lower taxes. And then these politicians ask people who own a house to pay more to fund the schools in their town (because it’s a choice, give another billion to a billionaire or ensure that schools have enough books, there’s not enough for both).
We have billionaires paying politicians to ensure that the government buys trillions in armaments at list price, and using the words “war profiteer” never passes their lips.
The corruption is across the board.
• Gun companies pay politicians to ensure that everyone can buy guns.
• Drug companies pay politicians to ensure that the government pays list price for drugs and that consumers are banned from buying these same drugs from lower priced sellers abroad.
• Coal companies pay politicians to build coal powered power plants.
• Oil companies pay politicians to build pipelines to their oil refineries.
• Huge farmers pay politicians for farm subsidies.
• Banks pay politicians to remove regulations.
• And the list just goes on and on.
The issue is that politicians are able legally to be influenced by money. And while this happens they will always be corrupt.
On the surface different parties blame each other for the corruption, but all the pigs are feeding at exactly the same trough.
In some places in the world it’s illegal for politicians to accept money for influence (it’s considered a bribe), this doesn’t stop it happening totally, but it does send some to prison.
The issue is that whenever I hear a politician say that they want to get money out of politics, I still don’t trust them. I know they have an angle.
Have we reached the point where no politician can ever be trusted again?