Jack Abramoff, a Bush-era lobbyist that spent three years in jail for corruption and tax evasion, has a new book out Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth about Washington Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist. It is apparently his stab at redemption by coming clean about the industry in which he was so immersed and incapable of discerning the difference between right and wrong that he ultimately went to jail.
In an article written for Bloomberg, he advocates a strict, lifetime ban on Congressional members and staff lobbying Congress or in any way associating with for-profit lobbying efforts.
Sarah Palin has a similar take on Congress in an article written for the Wall Street Journal, How Congress Occupied Wall Street. She sees a Congress where members show up as upper-middle-class regular Joes only to quickly enrich themselves from all the incidental perks of office, from gifts of IPO stock, to non-public stock information upon which to trade, to earmarking legislation to benefit personal holdings of real estate. She believes the answer is greater transparency. Bunk and bunk.
Both are effectively prescribing aspirin to cure a deadly cancer. The source of the corruption is the continuing expansion in the depth, breadth and reach of federal government power. The only cure for the disease is controlling the cancerous growth of the government upon which Congressional riches and power depends.
At least since 9/11, expansion in federal government power and prerogatives has been ceaseless and immense. There are, of course, the actual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan precipitated by 9/11, with all the corrupting influences attendant to the prosecution of any war. There is No Child Left Behind, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, the interest rate subsidy to residential mortgage GSE’s, etc., ad nauseam. That’s just during the Bush Administration. Tack on Obama’s stimulus, the rescue of banks and automobile companies, Obamacare, etc. Nothing in the private economy is about now growing remotely as robustly as is the federal government. Because Congress has at least some nominal control over the particular direction in which this growth will take, and whom it might benefit, graft and corruption are inevitable, no matter how much disclosure is required, no matter how little lobbying is allowed.
The only cure for this disease is reducing federal government power, which will happen only when the corpus (the body politic) upon which the cancer feeds is no longer able to provide nourishment. The whole world knows that federal government growth cannot continue much longer without inflicting rather dire consequences, as continued expansion in the depth, breadth and reach of the federal government is now accruing via massive deficit spending. Once the taxpayers, present and future, have been bled dry, and federal government power begins declining, so too will the vast portion of corruption. The price to buy a Congressman’s vote will precipitously decline when federal government power declines, and not before. Until then, Abramoff and Palin sound a bit like college sophomores in a late-night brainstorming session, dreaming up solutions without even understanding the problem.