Corruption, Cronies, and the 19th Century Express

Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 08:40 PM

The similarities between 21st century America and 19th century America are numerous and, for most of us, frightening. The 19th century is not a time that I want to revisit. It's not a coincidence that the 19th century gave rise to the first modern "labor rights" struggles, given the unsafe conditions, inadequate pay, unlimited hours, and government weighing in on the side of employers.

God know that most aspects of employment are worlds better today than they were then, but the trend is backward. And the backward trend includes another aspect of public life that was a hallmark of the 19th century: corruption.

That the 19th century was rife with government corruption, accompanied of course by business corruption, is a fact freely acknowledged in college courses covering that period of American history (see, for example, this piece from Stanley K. Schultz, professor of history). Government worked largely behind the scenes to trade support and even subsidies for the tycoons of the day, for large sums of money, patronage, and other rewards. All of which often came at the expense of employees' lives and limbs. As I read the news accounts of the day, it is pretty clear to me that, once again, government corruption is on the rise. It may have already become institutionalized or, if not, is certainly on the verge of becoming so.

Cronyism -- appointment of people to important government posts based on their personal relationship to the appointer -- is usually a reliable indicator of this type and depth of corruption. Needless to say, reports of cronyism in the current administration are certainly legion.

Nor am I the first to notice. In this week's The Recorder, the newspaper of Central Connecticut State University, there is an article titled History Repeats Itself: Cronyism of the Late 19th Century Alive and Well in Bush Administration, by staff writer Brian Morache. An excerpt:

... Not since the late 19th century have we seen such blatant use of the kind of cronyism that is rampant in the Bush administration.

Consider the latest of a long line of Bush White House scandals, the firing of eight U.S. attorneys for supposed 'performance issues.' Now it appears those 'performance issues' involved attempting to embarrass Democrats so that Republicans could win elections. One of the replacements for U.S. attorney is Karl Rove's personal assistant.

At least 10 other chief prosecutor positions have gone to assistants to Attorney General Gonzalez. While one would think that these people were qualified for their positions, it seems from the records that their only qualification being that they were loyal Bush supporters. It seems this president is doling out important government offices as if they were dog treats.

Case in point: Rachel Paulose, a close friend of Monica Goodling and former assistant to Mr. Gonzales, was appointed as U.S. attorney for Minnesota. Due to Ms. Paulose's abusive management style and lack of ability to do her job, four assistant U.S. attorneys voluntarily demoted themselves rather than work under her. Her scant management ability included the practice of quoting the Bible and publicly dressing down associates. It seems clear that, like ambassadorships were once, the U.S. attorney’s office is now a reward appointment to loyal administration officials.

He also talks about Mike Brown from FEMA, but omits Lurita Doan, David Safavian, the entire Abramoff circle, and many others.

The important characteristic of appointees in today's White House is not whether they can do the job they are being given, but whether they have been and/or will be loyal to the people who appointed them. Competence is simply not a concern. Some will turn out to be competent purely by coincidence, many will turn out to be as incompetent as those who ran the Interior Department like a charity for Republican fund-raisers.

And the rest of the world is watching this closely. Even a paper from Bangladesh has a recent piece on corruption. They claim its focus is on worldwide graft, but, oddly, it appears as the feature "Letter from the USA" and cites as evidence of graft mostly examples from America and Americans, along with a single example from elsewhere: Germany's massive corporation Siemens. It says early on, "In US newspapers alone on April 20, the pages are replete with cases of graft, cronyism and doling out of favors in return of monetary benefits."

An even worse take on corruption comes from a University of Notre Dame professor, Peri E. Arnold, in a piece titled Democracy and Corruption in the 19th Century United States: Parties, "Spoils" and Political Participation. Arnold's take on it is that the US, for some reason, has historically demonstrated a relationship between corruption and democratization:

Throughout the democratic west, widespread and systematic corruption is a disease of the past.

Among advanced democratic societies, corruption characterized a pre-democratic stage of government in which electoral participation was limited and the work of government largely invisible from the public.

However, the United States presents a puzzling exception to that relationship between democratization and corruption.

In the United States' political development there is a puzzling association between widespread corruption and high levels of democratic participation. In American political history, corruption is positively correlated with some gross indicators of democratic participation. Participation declines with the eventual reduction of corruption in American government. Furthermore, I shall suggest that the widely applauded replacement of temporary, patronage-appointed, citizen-administrators by a professional administrative class was directly associated with declining participation in political life.

In this paper I shall explain how corrupt practices in 19th century American public administration related to the expansion of democratic participation. Then I will examine the attack on corrupt practices in administration and the mechanisms through which those practices were mitigated.

So if Arnold is right, we can at least look forward to increased voter turnout as the country slides back toward the 19th century. That may be required if there's any chance of reversing our present course, given the amount of money and time that the corrupt will devote to "staying the course." Not to mention their army of apologists who even now are simply unwilling to see what is happening today, or to acknowledge the harsh realities of America's 19th century, and who view anybody else's acknowledgment as a sure sign of "America hating."

It's going to be a very rough ride trying to break free of this tide.

Comments

Lee gets partisan, "Cronyism -- appointment of people to important government posts based on their personal relationship to the appointer -- is usually a reliable indicator of this type and depth of corruption. Needless to say, reports of cronyism in the current administration are certainly legion."

What is it 8 state attorneys fired? Other than that case, I'm not sure what you mean: legion? At least, any significance since the 19th Century and the rise of cronyism, and since it is now the common practice, the norm to appoint political allies to positions of importance in the government.

Clinton fired 93 attorneys, and appointed 'choice picks' to replace them. That is 93 to 8 ... and you call this administration 'legion' in partisan picks for appointment? What was Sandy Burglar picked to do?

You are a prince of exaggeration, a maestro of hyperbole ... someone no one can believe ...

The firing of U.S. attorneys is a scandal for two reasons: (1) The Bush administration leaned on these people to pursue vote fraud cases to help Republicans win the mid-term elections and (2) when the firings became an issue, they lied and said the attorneys were fired with cause.

This last smear brought a bunch of Republicans out of the woodwork to denounce the firings, because they knew it wasn't for cause and they respected these attorneys. It also caused several of the attorneys to speak out. The White House's tendency to lie to cover itself bit it in the ass.

If they had fired them as Clinton did, and not suggested it was for cause, it might have been a minor blip on the scandal radar.

Rogers says, "The firing of U.S. attorneys is a scandal for two reasons: (1) The Bush administration leaned on these people to pursue vote fraud cases to help Republicans win the mid-term elections and (2) when the firings became an issue, they lied and said the attorneys were fired with cause."

You can go on all day long about 'scandal' and 'lies,' but the fact remains that the Democrats are investigating NO CRIME!

Meanwhile, Feinstein's husband is getting BILLIONS in contracts from having his wife sitting on (or was) defense construction committee!

Reid is suspected of selling his vote for MILLIONS IN LAND DEALS!

Jefferson is CAUGHT WITH GRAFT MONEY in his freezer and on film selling his vote!

... and here are the slavish, yellow-dog-democrats whining about NO CRIME!

"This last smear brought a bunch of Republicans out of the woodwork to denounce the firings, because they knew it wasn't for cause and they respected these attorneys."

BS! They are literally cowards and fear public disapproval more than they care for life, itself! The simple (although it whizzes right by the partisanly stupid) fact is that there is no crime to firing ANY states attorney; partisan or not!

"If they had fired them as Clinton did, and not suggested it was for cause, it might have been a minor blip on the scandal radar."

Another bald-faced-lie! If Bush had fired ALL the attorneys, the Democrats would have turned it into a 'scandal of lies." That's because the Democrats are partisan muckrakers who will revile anything and everything to gain political power ... for the gang, and not for all of the country ...

Disgusting!

Is it me or is Dubya at the keyboard again?

Okay, maybe it is me......dunno....sure SOUNDS like him!

"Okay, maybe it is me......"

It is you, and all the rest of the Democratic party -- too ashamed to even be able to discuss the criminals within your own party.

I don't blame you, really. The party's level of honesty is at an all time low, what with the treasonous effort to lose the war in Iraq, discredit and dehumanize our soldiers, heap international shame on the entire USA about intelligence gathering (at this moment praising the CIA and protecting "covert" agents, and at the next two-faced moment reviling them for being torturers and kidnappers) and whatever other criticism of all the USA you can achieve to dirty our nation's reputation abroad.

Now, your gang has a gigantic CORRUPTION worth BILLIONS of dollars in Feinstein's huband getting contracts for his companies while she is sitting on the defense construction subcommittee. And, not to mention Senator Jefferson caught on film selling his vote and with the filthy lucre in his freezer! Of course, when the Democratic gang went after Foley -- MILLIONS of people became aware that Democrats covered-up for Democratic PEDOPHILES: Studds and Franks! Then Harry Reid involved in suspicious land deals worth millions ... while he traitorously declares we've lost in Iraq!

No wonder you want to shift the blame for EVERYTHING onto Bush -- your party consists of intellectual cowards who literally cannot face their own disgusting shame in hiding their own criminal activities!

That's why you MUST point-the-boney-finger-of-guilt at this case where no crime has been done ... a whole party of Georgie Porgys running home so they can stick their collective tongues out behind the safety of their front windows ...

Darn! RUSH! I KNEW IT WAS YOU ALL ALONG! HOTALMATTYDARN!!

Quoth the troll:

"Now, your gang has a gigantic CORRUPTION worth BILLIONS of dollars in Feinstein's huband getting contracts for his companies while she is sitting on the defense construction subcommittee."

Quoth me:

And you want to guess at how much money your pals at Halliburton screwed the entire nation out of? Mmmmmm? Well? Feinstein's alledged mess is chump change compared to YOUR pals, ace!

And who runs Halliburton? Come on, take a guess!

Putteth thy lucre where thy mouth is!

Palm Greasing occurs, no matter whom wins the elections? Collusion 101, Clinton, Bush, Truman era the curroption was instituionalized, and curroption in the 19th century was more obvious. Clinton did fire 93 attornies, and Bush fired eight. If poll numbers for Bush were higher the fired attornies would not make news. Democrats are much to blame for this graft of taxpayer money as are republicans. Delay was thug shaking down other house member for support of bills to help is distict out, and Robert Bryd a democrat is still doing his palm greasing to this day.

Both parties will have loyalty complex and to keep the job as house memeber in US congress gotta take order from the majority or minority whip.

Hey, right wing trolls, you might want to actually know what you're talking about before you go spouting off Limbaugh's lie of the day.

The truth is that every present since Reagan has replaced all or almost all U.S. Attorneys when entering office as the normal transition between presidents. Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and GEORGE BUSH all did it. The way Clinton did it was a bit unusual, but all of the U.S. Attorneys in place when Clinton took office EXPECTED to be replaced as that was normal.

What George Bush has done now, purging U.S. Attorneys he himself appointed is highly unusual and to do it for disloyalty is a scandal!

OOps.. That should have read every PRESIDENT since Reagan.