American corruption

Great article from Sarah Chayes on corruption in the US. The linked video of Alex Pareene on CNBC talking about the corruption of JP Morgan, which is then disdainfully rejected by the HxC capitalist apologists at CNBC, is fascinating to watch from a variety of perspectives.

First, thinking about it from the point of view of a Trump voter and how the nameless entrenched elites (Clinton in particular) must be held accountable, but with an odd qualifier that rich people are exempt due their “brilliant” ability to acquire more wealth. When wealth = virtue, this sort of cognitive dissonance is understandable. So would the working class Trump voters sneer alongside the CNBC hosts when they snidely declare using the word “corruption” is hyperbolic when describing…corruption? Some would, I’m assuming, but not all. To reach these voters, we need to decouple the ideas of wealth, hard work, and virtue. There are a few routes we can take here, but demonstrating blatant corruption from banks, a point I think left-wing liberals and Trump voters can come together on, is a good place to start. While doing this, we have to be careful to not directly attack the idea of “the American Dream.” It’s all some people are clinging too and they will defend it to the death, or their own financial ruin. Rather we can phrase it in terms of elites and corruption between politicians and bankers (sorry, Sen Schumer, you’re getting thrown under the bus here) and how the system is getting rigged against the little guy (because it is). Left-wing liberals and conservatives can agree on this issue, it just takes some finagling to get there.

Second, thinking about it from the point of view of a Sanders/Stein voter, it is simply another demonstration than anyone with money or power is corrupt. Possibly true, depends on the definition of corruption, as discussed in the article. In a civil society, nearly everything revolves around legal definitions. When we contract the legal definition of corruption down to such a meaningless level, as we have, all a moneyed interest needs is the right type and number of lawyers, and they are fairly well-protected from nearly anything. The cost of court is prohibitive enough to keep unmoneyed interests from challenging anything other than their most deeply vested issues. This itself could be considered a type of corruption, though one that simply exists due to the modern monopolistic necessity of the lawyer-industrial complex. The ability to tie-down, or threaten to tie-down, something in court for years is intensely anti-egalitarian and undermines the rule of law. And it touches on all aspects of life, from easements to intellectual property to regulations. This is another area where left-leaning liberals and conservatives can come together, I believe. No one likes lawyers running things and trampling over the common people’s rights. Unfortunately on issues like Standing Rock we are phrasing the problem less in terms of corrupt corporations abusing the rule of law and more in identity politics/moral terms, which is a losing argument with potential conservative allies. These could be uniting issues, but I believe because of phrasing and focus on our side and right-wing propaganda on the other, it simply becomes another area we clash. Is it a coincidence it enables the status-quo when our groups are in conflict? It’s probably just the most self-interested course of action for elites.

Finally, the Clinton voters/supporters. I honestly don’t know where a Clinton supporter (by this I mean the hawkish neoliberal-Larry Summers/Washington Consensus type) would stand on this issue other than say it’s not ideal, but it’s the best we can do in our current democracy. So, capitalist apologist apologists. The problem is, to really fix the problem, a goodly number of establishment Democratic politicians would need to go, and this is unacceptable (to Clintonites) seeing as they still have a pretty tight hold on the reigns (see: Pelosi). So, as we saw in this election, Clinton types are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can’t condemn either political or economic corruption as a good chunk of their team is involved in either the practices themselves or culpable in the creation of the laws legalizing corruption in some way or another. Instead of making that tough first leap and cleaning up the party, Dems seem to be doubling down on their demographic game and just waiting out the US white population as that population’s numbers dwindle as a proportion of the electorate. Whether this is a long-term winning strategy is debatable as I don’t think Trump is going to end up being as objectionable to many Latinos as people predict (despite his rhetoric). In the near term, however, I think the state of the House, Senate (2018 in particular), State legislatures, Governorship’s, and Presidency speaks for itself. The GOP may be just as corrupt or even more so than the Dems, but at least they are the party of, “destroy the government because it’s corrupt.” So either the Dems take a page from their left-leaning colleagues and recognize the need to clean house, or we have to wait for the GOP to truly implode when it (I think) inevitably overplays its hand and does something that objectively and blatantly harms the little guy at the expense of moneyed interests. I prefer proactive approaches.

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