Reprinted with permission of the Delaware County Daily Times
Published March 17, 2017
By Joseph P. Batory, Times Guest Columnist
Many historians attribute the fall of the Roman Empire to deteriorating governmental leadership in the form of political corruption and self-serving practices in Rome which eventually pervaded and ultimately doomed the 500 year old Roman superpower. In that context, the demise of the Roman Empire offers an uncomfortable parallel with the current modus operandi in Washington, DC.
At the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in December (2016), Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig characterized the United States Congress as the most corrupt representative body in all of the Western world. Lessig stressed that the corrupter is MONEY! He contends that members of Congress spend too much time working for the benefit of the 1 percent of the financially powerful people who have supported their campaigns. The focus of these elected leaders is on what the political backers of their elections campaigns care about rather than legislating in the best interests all of the people. Lessig summarizes that members of Congress no longer deal with the pressing and practical needs of the majority of the American people and that the ideals of a representative democracy are being lost.
All of this echoes a speech a few years ago by the respected journalist Bill Moyers who summarized the deterioration of our government: “The egalitarian creed of our Declaration of Independence is mocked in all but name … The wealthy governing elites in America today – corporate executives, wealthy contributors, and the elected officials who have been bankrolled into office – possess a degree of power and separation befitting a true ruling class…”
Indeed, too many elected officials in Washington have become “rubber stampers,” casting aside intellectual analysis and the needs of the people in decision making and blindly voting for whatever the big money interests and/or political bosses dictate to them. And the very basis for American representative democracy has been betrayed.
Billionaires, corporate monarchs and well financed Political Action Committees are calling the shots in Washington and basically using large amounts of money to dictate their agendas for elected officials to follow.
The United States continues to move more and more toward an oligarchy, a system where all economic and political power is in the hands of a very few. Ironically, that was the “prophetic message” of presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, but his arguments were dismissed by the majority of Americans as “foolish.” But Sanders is no fool. His prophecy has become reality.
While our nation needs a directed sense of moral vision and caring leadership, too many elected officials in Washington have priorities supported by a self-centered quid pro quo modus operandi – what you do for me determines what I will do for you. Too many politicians are now focused on payback for financial support to political supporters and railroading of the agendas of corporations and wealthy ideologues. The common good of the people is off the radar screen of elected officials!
The American people certainly understand this malfeasance. The most recent Gallup Poll reveals that only 20 percent of America’s citizens approve of the job Congress is doing. And that lowly rating, measured each month, has not been any higher in the past two years.
The real question is “what are the people going to do about this?”
Joseph Batory is the author of three books and has been widely published on politics and education.