Not capitalism; cronyism: Big government makes it so
For all intents and purposes, big government in Washington has created a niche market for insiders who learn the specialized skill of transferring money from those who earned it to those with political pull. It's the same across the Western world
No matter how much I pontificate about Washington corruption, there’s no way I can get across the true extent of the DC establishment’s self-serving behavior.
Washington is rich because government is big and the beneficiaries of this system are enjoying their status as America’s new gilded class. It’s even gotten to the point where children and other family members also put their hands in the cookie jar.
I guess we can call this a system of hereditary corruption. Heck, maybe we can even create hereditary titles for this new elite. The Duke of Pork. The Earl of Sleaze. The Marquise de Cronyism.
Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, check out these blurbs from a Daily Beast article.
"Connected children of political families catching a break is something we Americans are plenty used to—there would be no Kennedy or Bush dynasties without the public’s acceptance… But it might be that Americans are less aware of political family power plays when they’re not accompanied by gripping and grinning and kissing our babies for cameras and votes. …“Members of Congress basically are profit centers for their entire families,” says Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington."
The article cites examples of this unseemly process.
"Nathan Daschle, son of former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, …did a stint at a D.C. firm before heading to the Democratic Governor’s Association (where he eventually served as Executive Director), and now works for Clear Channel Media as its Executive Vice President for Political Strategy. …then there are the lobbyists—that professional amalgam of business and politics—the litany of which reads something like an Old Testament family tree. There’s Andy Blunt, son of Senator Roy Blunt and brother of former governor Matt Blunt; Andrew Coats, son of Senator Dan Coats; Scott Hatch, son of Senator Orrin Hatch; David Roberts, son of Senator Pat Roberts; Shantrel Brown Fields, daughter of Rep. Corinne Brown; Giliane Carter, daughter of Representative John Carter; Sean King, son of Rep. Peter King; Clark Mica, son of Rep. John Mica."
As you might expect, this incestuous system produces spectacular examples of wasteful and counterproductive spending.
"…sometimes there is trouble in the paradise where business and politics and family meet. There’s the case of Brad Enzi, son of Mike, Senator from Wyoming. Enzi the younger has been overseeing the building of the Two Elk Power Plant in Wyoming for North American Power Group. …
"Senator Enzi pushed for Department of Energy funds to go towards clean coal research projects in his state and Brad Enzi’s company benefitted from them; it received nearly $10 million in funding to drill a well to study the site surrounding the plant, and Enzi himself earned $128,000 in compensation from the federal money.
"…Chaka Fattah Jr., son of Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah, has similarly felt the double-edged blade of intertwining family, business, and political ties. The management consulting company he founded was paid $450,000 by an education firm with lucrative contracts with the Philadelphia City School District—turns out Chaka’s father requested a $375,000 earmark for the firm from a 2009 transportation bill. Both father and son are currently under federal investigation."
Keep in mind, by the way, that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
For every bit of scandal and pork that gets publicized, you can be confident that there are hundreds of equally sordid deals that haven’t been exposed.
For all intents and purposes, big government in Washington has created a niche market for insiders who learn the specialized skill of transferring money from those who earned it to those with political pull.
And these insiders pass along this “skill” to their children.
"…a hereditary specialized group of people who perform certain necessary social functions and because they have families, they’re going to gradually monopolize the functions they perform.” And in 2014, the place that’s increasingly being chosen as a place to call home by American “elites” happens to be Washington, D.C. The city’s greater metropolitan area boasts the largest number of “Super Zips”—those areas with the highest combined wealth and level of education—in the country."
They get the “super zips” while the rest of the country is treated as “super chumps.”
No wonder the Washington metropolitan area is now the richest part of the United States. If that sounds like we’re becoming Argentina or some other cesspool of cronyism, then you understand the problem.
By the way, none of this should be interpreted to suggest that parents shouldn’t try to help their kids. Or even to give them some help joining the family business. That’s a normal part of life.
The problem exist when the “family business” is big government and income is obtained by facilitating the coercion and oppression of other people.
In a genuinely free market, by contrast, you get rich by serving other people.
P.S. Some people argue that the solution is to ban family members from lobbying or to otherwise impose restrictions on the political process. But until you deal with the underlying problem of Washington being a favor factory, all of these efforts will be akin to playing whack-a-mole.
This video explains.
P.P.S. On a totally separate issue, it appears that our right to keep and bear flamethrowers has been eroded in North Dakota.
Here are some excerpts from a Fargo news report.
"Local resident Todd Fox has been detained for “reckless endangerment” and “illegal use of high-powered fire-breathing weaponry” for attacking snow with his flamethrower. …Fox stated that he was simply “fed up with battling the elements” and that he did not possess the willpower necessary to move “four billion tons of white bull [expletive deleted].” Police say that Fox surrendered his efforts immediately upon their arrival and that his front yard “looked like a hydrogen bomb had gone off.” They think he was just happy to be done with snow removal, even if it did mean a trip to jail."
I have two reactions to this story. First, does Fargo really have a local ordinance governing the use of “high-powered fire-breathing weaponry”? I’m skeptical.
Second, isn’t this a great country? There probably aren’t many places in the world where citizens are allowed to own flamethrowers. Makes me proud to be American.
Daniel J. Mitchell, a long standing contributor to The Commentator, is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, the free-market, Washington D.C. think tank. His articles are cross-posted on his blog by agreement
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