QotD – Crooked Politicians

 

Show me a man that gets rich by being a politician, and I’ll show you a crook. – Harry Truman

Harry Truman was an honest politician.  He left the White House without a fortune and refused to profit off the Presidency by accepting positions on corporate boards. Presidents since then, especially Democrats? Not so much. The only President since Truman that left office poorer than when he entered it was Donald Trump. Whatever failing you may think Trump may have had, profiting from political office was not one of them.

When I first moved to Texas, my Representative was a man who had been elected to Congress before I was born. He grew up dirt poor in East Texas. Except for a stint in the military during World War II, he spent his entire life in elective office, first in the Texas Legislature and then in Congress for nearly 40 years. He was a wealthy man by the time he left Congress… very wealthy. No doubt that wealth came from investing the excess income from his legislative salaries in U.S. Savings Bonds.

He was a typical Democrat, and seems to be a model for our current Resident of the Office of the Presidency. It is pretty obvious that everything in today’s Federal government is for sale, as long as a cut goes to the Big Guy.

I doubt most Republicans are much better,  but they seem better at, in Kipling’s words, stealing in measure than Democrats. Regardless, public corruption has been the downfall of more than one republic.

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  1. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    But it’s another one of those situations where the only guys who can stop it are the guys who have the least interest in stopping it.

    • #1
  2. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Much of the impetus for the 17th Amendment (establishing the popular election of Senators replacing appointment and serving at the pleasure of state government) came from the fact that there was corruption in the existing approach. It is now clear that corruption in the Senate today is far more difficult to cope with than anything to be imagined at a state level and it comes with every negative feature to be connected to governance from Washington.

    This highlights the importance of stopping the legislation effort to shift all election related control from the states to the federal government.

    • #2
  3. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I’ve always had a decent respect for Truman and his performance as President. There should be two paths that I can think of for someone to enter and progress in elective politics and each attracts a significantly different character. One is to start at the local level and through a career of service dedicated to the people rise to be chosen to serve at higher levels. This path might resemble what we see in religious clerics and careers in education, in other words, a service oriented life and hardly an expectation of getting rich. The other is a crossover from a successful performance in other endeavors such as business or the military.  Neither of these approaches includes being bought and made rich by those paying for favorable policy action. But this is mostly what we have been getting.

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    This is is the Quote of the Day. Our sign-up sheet for May is here.  If you’re new at this game, it’s a easy way to get your feet wet and start a conversation; if you’re an old-timer, you already know the ropes.  Either way, please sign up to speak up.

    Another ongoing project to encourage new voices is our Group Writing Project. May’s theme is “May Day, Mayday, May Days.” If you’re looking to share your own thoughts rather than those of others, please sign up for Group Writing too!

     

    • #4
  5. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    What has always been clear to me is that term limits should have been applied not to presidents, who don’t ever survive three terms, but to legislators who seem to be immortal. 

    • #5
  6. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    TBA (View Comment):

    What has always been clear to me is that term limits should have been applied not to presidents, who don’t ever survive three terms, but to legislators who seem to be immortal.

    Legislators are not immortal, but it is just with so many of them some of them are going to live to an overripe old age. Since incumbent Representatives and Senators rarely get defeated that means they stay in office until they die. The solution is voting more of them out of office.

    • #6
  7. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    What has always been clear to me is that term limits should have been applied not to presidents, who don’t ever survive three terms, but to legislators who seem to be immortal.

    Legislators are not immortal, but it is just with so many of them some of them are going to live to an overripe old age. Since incumbent Representatives and Senators rarely get defeated that means they stay in office until they die. The solution is voting more of them out of office.

    The current situation could lead to elective term limits if facts can be delivered in public media instead of propaganda. This will be very difficult to accomplish.

    • #7
  8. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    What has always been clear to me is that term limits should have been applied not to presidents, who don’t ever survive three terms, but to legislators who seem to be immortal.

    Legislators are not immortal, but it is just with so many of them some of them are going to live to an overripe old age. Since incumbent Representatives and Senators rarely get defeated that means they stay in office until they die. The solution is voting more of them out of office.

    It’s unseemly, the way the old boars and sows keep the new piglets away from the trough while they gorge. 

    • #8
  9. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    TBA (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    What has always been clear to me is that term limits should have been applied not to presidents, who don’t ever survive three terms, but to legislators who seem to be immortal.

    Legislators are not immortal, but it is just with so many of them some of them are going to live to an overripe old age. Since incumbent Representatives and Senators rarely get defeated that means they stay in office until they die. The solution is voting more of them out of office.

    It’s unseemly, the way the old boars and sows keep the new piglets away from the trough while they gorge.

    Yes, the age-old problem. 

    And term limits probably aren’t the answer either, because it will both simply accelerate the amount of corruption and graft the office-holder will have to invite to secure the life-long bennies he will accrue before his term runs out, and also supply the entrenched bureaucratic class with fresh, idealistic young replacements they can dominate and manipulate, ala Yes Minister.

    It’s all quite depressing.

    The only solution is to accept this inevitable flaw in the system of self-government, and keep it from getting out of hand by continuously limiting the amount of stuff these poltroons are allowed to stick their snouts into. Acknowledge human nature, and limit the scope of what the Government is constitutionally allowed to have power over. Then the most ambitious would-be candidates will opt out of consideration of Government service as a path to fame and fortune, and hopefully go away and pester someone else.

    However, again this change is unlikely, because the only ones who can enact the change are the ones who are least likely to want to change anything – they like it just the way it is.

    (And sadly, so do an increasing number of beguiled and befuttled voters, legal or not (because why does that matter?)) 

    • #9
  10. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    What has always been clear to me is that term limits should have been applied not to presidents, who don’t ever survive three terms, but to legislators who seem to be immortal.

    Legislators are not immortal, but it is just with so many of them some of them are going to live to an overripe old age. Since incumbent Representatives and Senators rarely get defeated that means they stay in office until they die. The solution is voting more of them out of office.

    It’s unseemly, the way the old boars and sows keep the new piglets away from the trough while they gorge.

    Yes, the age-old problem.

    And term limits probably aren’t the answer either, because it will both simply accelerate the amount of corruption and graft the office-holder will have to invite to secure the life-long bennies he will accrue before his term runs out, and also supply the entrenched bureaucratic class with fresh, idealistic young replacements they can dominate and manipulate, ala Yes Minister.

    It’s all quite depressing.

    The only solution is to accept this inevitable flaw in the system of self-government, and keep it from getting out of hand by continuously limiting the amount of stuff these poltroons are allowed to stick their snouts into. Acknowledge human nature, and limit the scope of what the Government is constitutionally allowed to have power over. Then the most ambitious would-be candidates will opt out of consideration of Government service as a path to fame and fortune, and hopefully go away and pester someone else.

    However, again this change is unlikely, because the only ones who can enact the change are the ones who are least likely to want to change anything – they like it just the way it is.

    (And sadly, so do an increasing number of beguiled and befuttled voters, legal or not (because why does that matter?))

    I have generally disliked term limits because, Why should we limit a good man’s time in office?  And it seems to me it takes more than a two year elected term just to understand the issues in the broad variety of legislation that Representatives are asked and expected to vote knowledgeably on.

    And as for the non-elected staff positions, a couple of decades of expertise seem invaluable for competent work in the craft of any sub-specialty.

    But on the other hand, I think one powerful lesson that Trump provided was that a newbie– even a bright and capable newbie — just doesn’t know they system well enough to protect himself from malignant actors and factions, or to develop a strong upper management cadre to support him and to carry out his decisions.

    I suspect that the greatest mistake Trump made was not fighting to keep Gen. Flynn, who should have been able to help negotiate the traps of the opposition.

    Now I wonder if perhaps the answer is not term limits for elected officials, but limits on non-elected government employee longevity; maybe limiting a paid government employee position to five years of service.

    • #10
  11. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Flicker (View Comment):

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    It’s unseemly, the way the old boars and sows keep the new piglets away from the trough while they gorge.

    Yes, the age-old problem.

    And term limits probably aren’t the answer either, because it will both simply accelerate the amount of corruption and graft the office-holder will have to invite to secure the life-long bennies he will accrue before his term runs out, and also supply the entrenched bureaucratic class with fresh, idealistic young replacements they can dominate and manipulate, ala Yes Minister.

    It’s all quite depressing.

    The only solution is to accept this inevitable flaw in the system of self-government, and keep it from getting out of hand by continuously limiting the amount of stuff these poltroons are allowed to stick their snouts into. Acknowledge human nature, and limit the scope of what the Government is constitutionally allowed to have power over. Then the most ambitious would-be candidates will opt out of consideration of Government service as a path to fame and fortune, and hopefully go away and pester someone else.

    However, again this change is unlikely, because the only ones who can enact the change are the ones who are least likely to want to change anything – they like it just the way it is.

    (And sadly, so do an increasing number of beguiled and befuttled voters, legal or not (because why does that matter?))

    I have generally disliked term limits because, Why should we limit a good man’s time in office? And it seems to me it takes more than a two year elected term just to understand the issues in the broad variety of legislation that Representatives are asked and expected to vote knowledgeably on.

    And as for the non-elected staff positions, a couple of decades of expertise seem invaluable for competent work in the craft of any sub-specialty.

    But on the other hand, I think one powerful lesson that Trump provided was that a newbie– even a bright and capable newbie — just doesn’t know they system well enough to protect himself from malignant actors and factions, or to develop a strong upper management cadre to support him and to carry out his decisions.

    I suspect that the greatest mistake Trump made was not fighting to keep Gen. Flynn, who should have been able to help negotiate the traps of the opposition.

    Now I wonder if perhaps the answer is not term limits for elected officials, but limits on non-elected government employee longevity; maybe limiting a paid government employee position to five years of service.

    Indeed. Why should there be lifetime positions in government? It’s artificial and creates a blinkered world-view. 

    • #11