An Establisment of Corruption

The U.S government was founded as a mechanism for opposing political corruption and putting real power into the hands of the people. But today, it isn’t uncommon to hear people claiming that U.S politicians are corrupt liars, and it isn’t a coincidence that the phrase “lying like a politician” is popular. Why do American citizens put so little faith in their elected leaders and government, and what do they mean when they say that “politics is corrupt?”

Many of the divisive topics argued over in D.C, such as implementation of universal healthcare, gun reform and the legalization of marijuana, are actually supported by a majority of Americans. For example, Gallup polls, sampled people from all political parties and found that a majority of Americans support some form of Universal Health Care. When it comes to gun reform, 63 percent support stricter gun laws and 61 percent support a ban on assault rifles. 60 percent think that the reduction of fossil fuels is the favorable option, and 66 percent support the legalization of marijuana. 

While campaigning, a candidate receives donations to fund their campaign. It is during this time that corporations and Political Action Committees, committees made to represent business, unions, an ideological interests, provide huge donations to candidates. By accepting these corporate donations a candidate is essentially promising that when they get into office they will return the favor by making decisions in Congress that suit their donors. 

“Across the isle there is a lot of redundancy and worry about how to get re-elected,” AP U.S History teacher Chris McMillan said. “You should get two terms. After that you’re done, end of story.”

However, corporate interference doesn’t just stop at the campaign phase. In U.S, politics lobbyists are essentially head speakers for corporations and organizations that attempt to sway the decisions of certain law makers. They can write law drafts and propose them to lawmakers in hopes that it will make it to Congress. 

Lobbyists buy representatives through gifts, bribes and offering high paying jobs to the representatives after they leave office. In this way, politicians are voting in Congress not for the people who voted them in but for the lobbyists who are buying out their vote.

“Lobbying is a necessary evil,” McMillan said. “Lobbying serves a purpose. If you don’t have a lobbyist, nobody listens to you.Things like the teacher’s lobby give teachers a voice.”

D.C has a long history of changing the law to fit their donors and lobbyists needs. According to  the Center of American Progress Fund, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 provided an average tax cut of $55,000 to the one percent of top earners in the country. 

Huge pharmaceutical companies received $55 billion in tax cuts last year while also having an average increase of 15 percent on the price of their drugs. Under the Trump administration, 20 drugs saw a 200 percent increase in price. 

In total, Wall Street donated $23 million to house Republicans in 2018. They used this lobbying money to rollback restricting reforms from the Great Recession, and the top five banks of Wall Street received $2.5 billion of tax cuts in the first quarter of 2018 alone. 

However, corruption is not just a Republican issue. This phenomenon affects both parties. 

In 2016, emails from WikiLeaks, an organization committed to free speech and total political transparency, and information from Donna Brazille, a former contributor to CNN, revealed that the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the group responsible for picking a Democratic candidate for the presidential election, was rigged. According to the Observer, a subsection of the British newspaper “The Guardian,” officials already had a favorite candidate: Hillary Clinton, despite Bernie Sanders having higher polling numbers. 

This is not Hillary Clinton’s only instance of corruption. During her campaign, she spoke at paid speeches for her big corporate donors behind closed doors and refused to release the transcripts of what was said. 

According to the New York Times, some of the transcripts were leaked and it detailed Clinton attempting  to receive the support of more corporate donors by announcing her support for cutting social security and unregulated international trade, contradicting the messages in her public speeches.

The New York Times also found that former Vice President Joe Biden used his political power while in office to provide his son, Hunter Biden, a seat on the Board of Energy in Ukraine and received up to $55,000 a month, despite having no expertise for that position.

Government teacher Timothy Williams sees the corruption in U.S foreign affairs. 

“How are all these countries getting all these weapons when they have very low GDPs? Where is the money coming from to buy these things?” Williams said. “Iran has no GDP, where did they get the money to get nuclear power?” “If a candidate has been there for too long and has flip flopped their stance then that’s a good way, I think, that there’s some kind of corruption going on,” Williams said. “There should be term limits on Congress members. After 12 years, you need to find something else.”

 Because of all of this corruption, there has been a new wave of politicians renouncing corporate money and interest. A vast majority of democratic candidates pledged not to take corporate money and rely on a grassroots campaign to fuel their campaigns, such Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in her successful 2018 race for Congress. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has also made this pledge and raised $25.3 million in small individual donations in three months. 

“Look for people that are not tied in with huge corporations and with the rich,” McMillan said. “Look for people who come from common backgrounds like us, who aren’t out of touch and who understand what it’s like to deal with daily struggles.”