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Belmont Club

Chump Change

April 6th, 2013 - 1:05 pm

John Podhoretz has a column of real national security importance. In it he wonders why American politicians can be bribed for so little.  ”This country is an embarrassment.”

Look, when Venezuela’s populist demagogue Hugo Chavez died, word was he’d somehow accumulated an estate worth $2 billion. In the old days when the PRI party ruled Mexico uninterruptedly, every president got a single six-year term — and promptly retired at its close as a billionaire.

And that was when a billion was real money.

By contrast American politicians can be had for comparatively next to nothing.

Richard Kelly, a Republican representative from Florida, was videotaped stuffing $25,000 into his pockets. “Does it show?” he asked the fake sheik.

Granted, that $25K would be $77,000 today, but seriously? The man was a congressman, for Pete’s sake. Surely he could have held out for more from people he thought were oil-rich billionaires.

What about William Jefferson, the congressman from Louisiana who went to jail in 2009 after he was caught with his hands in the cookie jar? They found $90,000 in a refrigerator.

Ninety thou? Surely a close vote on a weapons system is worth far more than that! …

And it just keeps on coming. Now we have two Democratic assemblymen in The Bronx getting nailed on a different corruption matter by US Attorney Preet Bhahara — one, Eric Stevenson, indicted, and the other, Nelson Castro, not indicted because he dropped the dirty dime on Stevenson.

And what did Stevenson allegedly get? Twenty-two grand. Twenty-two lousy grand. That’s what one of the real-estate developers who are accused of trying to buy him off might spend on the kiddush at the family bar mitzvah.

I mean, can’t anybody here play this game?

Back in the old days, before they figured out how things worked, drug dealers from Mexico, sheiks from the Gulf, tinpot dictators from Africa used to come to America to shop for electronics, clothes and luxury goods. America was a wow place. A place where you gawked on Fifth Avenue while your retainers came up behind you carrying bags of money to buy baubles.

Today you can get the baubles on Amazon. Or you can order them  the online sites of stores that I can’t afford which deliver to your door. But some things never change. The mustache Petes still come to America to shop. Except they come to buy politicians. They’re a real steal.

This is how China does it’s research and development.

And as for the sheiks — they learned a long time ago that ten billion dollars spent on weapons didn’t buy them much protection from the US military. It just meant target practice for the 101st Airborne.

But ten billion dollars spread around Washington bought plenty. It bought so much that they couldn’t believe themselves.

A hotel ticket and a tour in the private jet now buy opinion. It’s called access journalism; the eBay of influence peddling.

And what about prestige? How much do you think that costs? Chairs at exalted institutions of learning cost are dime a dozen. Chairs which produce convincing studies showing certain belief systems are religions of peace while others are fonts of bigotry. You can prove anything by buying expertise; even that  mass shootings are really just workplace violence or ascribe it to the sad fact that Americans tend to buy magazines that can hold more than seven bullets.

A billion is still a lot of money, John, when politicians cost twenty-two grand.

Fortunately we have patriots, real patriots, who know what the solution to the problem is.

We’re going to produce our own oligarchs. We’re going to be like China where the elites talk in billions, not peanuts. When we create our own sheiks, our own nomenklatura then the playing field will be level.  We can look them in the eye. America will be great again, at least in the sense that Venezuela was.  In the manner that Mexico is. It’s little wonder that our leaders, even the great papers of the Republic, have expressed such admiration for China.

It’s a shame John, a real shame, when politicians cost twenty-two grand.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99

No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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Top Rated Comments   
It is said by lobbyists that money doesn't buy votes from public men; it buys access.

It could equally be said by johns that money doesn't buy sex from public women; it buys access.

The difference is what part of the anatomy is getting rented. In both cases, though, somebody is getting screwed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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Never heard of Christopher John Boyce. What an American loser!!

Your list left out BHO, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. All peas in a mutant pod.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A man who has a price is easy to understand. What I fear is a man who does something for the sake of an exclusive ideology, like;

Christopher James Boyce
Osama Bin Laden
Al Sharpton
Harry Reid

If $22k would only do it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Our country has produced a lot of things. Two come to mind, politics and poverty as career choices. Both require little effort after having gotten the job and one supports the other. Brilliant actually,
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"By contrast American politicians can be had for comparatively next to nothing."

With all due respect, I don't think you understand the business model. They make up the quantity by selling in bulk to a wide variety of consumers. Just because the Coca-Cola companies average unit product costs under a dollar doesn't mean they still can't make a bundle with the aggregate sales.

With so much competition you don't want to price yourself out of the market. :-)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I would say that people who can do, do. People who can't, run for office. This is mostly true today and was slightly true at the beginning of our Republic.

Well, Mr. Franklin, sad to say, we couldn't keep it...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
simple economics, supply and demand. When the willing suppliers are competing with each other, in fact falling all over each other to offer favors to those who need their services, the prices will be low. It's like the nighttime street corner with a dozen hookers hanging out - the johns have got their choice and the price gets driven down. It takes a major pimp daddy like Chavez to get the activity organized and turn the thing into a sellers market where some serious money can be made.

of course we do suffer from a horde of minor pimp daddy's who make their money by taking a cut of everything that happens, and who can make sure that nothing happens unless they get a cut. In our society, we call these people Government Employees.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The expiration date on today's pols is considerably shorter than it was in Harry Truman's day.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why not bigger bribes?

Those are only for the losers. Think of Stockton, CA and Bell, CA. There is far more money to be made in simply doing your job to the minimal extent possible and accepting a fat salary and huge pension. And we are talking small, insignificant cities, there. No one ever heard of Bell, CA until the scandal broke, and only people who have lived in CA had heard of Stockon. Imagine what you can do on the National level.

Then after Public Service, there is always a cushy, well paying job with the National Association of Eating Kumquats On Alternate Wednesdays. Or with the Union of Left Handed Pipe Wrench Weilders and Screen Door Repairman.

And the very-popular Race Pimp Industry awaits the politically savvy.

There is too much "legal" graft out there to interest any but the real pikers, the ones too stupid to do it the DC Way.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Methinks you are being too harsh on our noble Congresspersons. A tin pot dictator or the president of a failed third world country has much more power to dispense favors, and many more favors to dispense, than your average congressman, so naturally their takes are much larger. Congressmen think small because their world is small, kinda like the world as seen by the small fish in an ocean containing fish much larger, more voracious and much hungrier than they.

The small fry hang around the bait
The bigger fish look on
The small fry is too dumb to wait
And in a moment’s gone
A slick dictator is worth more
A Congressman worth less
A President runs up the score
As Congressmen confess
That twenty grand looks mighty nice
It buys the girlfriend shoes
A dictator spends in a trice
That much and more on booze
So give our Congressmen a break
They do the best they can
And twenty grand will top the take
Until they are The Man

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.
- Also attributed to G.B. Shaw.

Real Philadelphia,
One difference between America and the Third World or pre-modern societies in general is that in most times and places someone with brains or ambition would go into the clergy or the government. The military was one path up and in earlier times the clergy was the entry to the civil administration, or even with some orders to military advancement. Whatever path you choose, and the lines did blur, there were strong incentives to avoid mere commerce.

In America if you wanted to amount to something you found out what your neighbors wanted and you went to work. That is why in America the government and to some extent the clergy and academia got those who couldn't hack it in business. As Dr Raymond Stantz said in Ghost Busters, "I've worked in the private sector--they expect results."

Prejudices against "trade" are still strong among hierarchical reactionaries, such as European and 3rd World Socialists, and their American admirers. Right now we are in a difficult period of transition and training but in a few years we could achieve European levels of kleptocracy. The optics should be much better and the markets for french cuff shirts with cufflinks and high end escorts in a pied a terre should improve.

American politicians are embarrassingly grubby. Rumors are it took $10 to get something off Spiro Agnew's desk when he was a Zoning Commissioner.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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