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The Importance Of Jack

The Importance of Jack I posted links to two long pieces on Republicans, ethics, and morality (remember, they're different!) last week, but never

The Importance of Jack

I posted links to two long pieces on Republicans, ethics, and morality (remember, they're different!) last week, but never had a chance to go in depth. This closing passage from the piece in the New York Review of Books, "Selling Washington," presents an interesting and important perspective...

The effects of the new, higher level of corruption on the way the country is governed are profound. Not only is legislation increasingly skewed to benefit the richest interests, but Congress itself has been changed. The head of a public policy strategy group told me, "It's not about governing anymore. The Congress is now a transactional institution. They don't take risks. So when a great moral issue comes up— like war—they can't deal with it." The theory that ours is a system of one-person-one-vote, or even that it's a representative democracy, is challenged by the reality of power and who really wields it. Barney Frank argues that "the political system was supposed to overcome the financial advantage of the capitalists, but as money becomes more and more influential, it doesn't work that way."
Two House Democrats, Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, and Martin Meehan, of Massachusetts, have introduced legislation to tighten the rules on privately funded travel, strengthen the lobbying disclosure rules, and slow down the revolving door by which former members of Congress take jobs with the trade associations and, after a year, can lobby their former colleagues. Some Republicans are talking about placing more restrictive rules on trips. But the record shows that new regulations can often be evaded.Stakeholder

I posted links to two long pieces on Republicans, ethics, and morality (remember, they're different!) last week, but never had a chance to go in depth. This closing passage from the piece in the New York Review of Books, "Selling Washington," presents an interesting and important perspective...

The effects of the new, higher level of corruption on the way the country is governed are profound. Not only is legislation increasingly skewed to benefit the richest interests, but Congress itself has been changed. The head of a public policy strategy group told me, "It's not about governing anymore. The Congress is now a transactional institution. They don't take risks. So when a great moral issue comes up— like war—they can't deal with it." The theory that ours is a system of one-person-one-vote, or even that it's a representative democracy, is challenged by the reality of power and who really wields it. Barney Frank argues that "the political system was supposed to overcome the financial advantage of the capitalists, but as money becomes more and more influential, it doesn't work that way."
Two House Democrats, Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, and Martin Meehan, of Massachusetts, have introduced legislation to tighten the rules on privately funded travel, strengthen the lobbying disclosure rules, and slow down the revolving door by which former members of Congress take jobs with the trade associations and, after a year, can lobby their former colleagues. Some Republicans are talking about placing more restrictive rules on trips. But the record shows that new regulations can often be evaded.


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Perhaps the greatest deterrent to ethical transgression is that members of Congress don't want to read unfavorable stories about themselves. A Republican lobbyist says that the biggest factor in the growth of corruption has been "the expectation that all this goes undetected and unenforced." He added, "If Jack Abramoff goes to jail, that will be a big message to this town." Since the scandal broke over Abramoff's payments on behalf of DeLay, members of Congress have been scrambling to amend their travel reports, in some cases listing previously unreported trips, or filling in missing details. Public outrage can also have an inhibiting effect: after the Republicans changed the ethics rules earlier this year to protect DeLay, the adverse reaction in the press and from constituents was strong enough to make the Republican leadership back down.

But the public can't become outraged about something that isn't brought to its attention. The press tends to pounce on the big scandals but usually fails to cover the more common ones that take place every day. Some of the politicians I talked to hoped that the scandal over DeLay and Abramoff might lead to real changes, including more prosecutions and stricter disclosure requirements. But even they admit that, like so many other scandals, it may simply blow over.

 

 

How to deal with a bully        

Perhaps the greatest deterrent to ethical transgression is that members of Congress don't want to read unfavorable stories about themselves. A Republican lobbyist says that the biggest factor in the growth of corruption has been "the expectation that all this goes undetected and unenforced." He added, "If Jack Abramoff goes to jail, that will be a big message to this town." Since the scandal broke over Abramoff's payments on behalf of DeLay, members of Congress have been scrambling to amend their travel reports, in some cases listing previously unreported trips, or filling in missing details. Public outrage can also have an inhibiting effect: after the Republicans changed the ethics rules earlier this year to protect DeLay, the adverse reaction in the press and from constituents was strong enough to make the Republican leadership back down.

But the public can't become outraged about something that isn't brought to its attention. The press tends to pounce on the big scandals but usually fails to cover the more common ones that take place every day. Some of the politicians I talked to hoped that the scandal over DeLay and Abramoff might lead to real changes, including more prosecutions and stricter disclosure requirements. But even they admit that, like so many other scandals, it may simply blow over.

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