by Zane Zodrow
[intense_dropcap]I[/intense_dropcap]n case anyone has forgotten how our government operates, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary offers this explanation:
BRIBE: Money or favor given or promised to a person in a position of trust to influence his judgment or conduct.
My friend Bob emailed the above definition to me recently. It was probably an old dictionary, as it says, “influence HIS judgment,” but the definition got some thoughts going.
Any time a law gets passed by Congress, we hear about the back room deal-making, “compromise,” and promises made in order to secure votes. The politicians themselves will often recount how things went. If Senator “A” promises her vote in return for favor “X” or Representative “C” agrees to vote a certain way to get votes on another bill, these exchanges, by the above definition, are bribery. I am pretty sure bribery of an elected official is still illegal in the U.S. and in all 50 states, for both the recipient and the giver of said bribe.
Campaign donations and lobbying are two ways politicians are currently bribed on a daily basis. Someone donating money to a re-election campaign in order to (influence judgment). Insider stock tips, promises of big money jobs in the future, etc. (favor given or promised). Just take a look at how many former politicians and staffers make big money working at Washington lobbying firms.
Another friendly term for a corrupt action is “pork barreling” or “pork.” This is when a politician includes something in a bill that directly benefits his/her constituents, often with little regard to if it is actually a good idea for everyone who is paying for it. In this case, the politician is trying to bribe the constituents in return for votes.
“But that’s just the way things have always been done….” So? That doesn’t make it right. (See slavery, bloodletting, and human sacrifice as examples.)
The political elites use PR, or “spin” (propaganda) extensively in their never-ending quest for more power and influence. Pro-life/pro-choice, voter I.D./voter suppression, right to work/anti-union would be a few examples of skewing the description of an issue so the chosen side sounds more appealing.
I would humbly suggest that we, the people, do the same if we want to lessen the corruption in Washington D.C. and our statehouses. Let’s start calling “deal-making” and “lobbying” and “compromise” what it really is, bribery. If enough people call out the actions of politicians at gatherings, protests, social networks, in email correspondence, and in daily life, more people may realize what’s happening in our country, and some changes may start to happen. Just as an example, how often did you see the terms 99% or 1% in regards to economic inequality a year ago, compared to how often it appears over the past few months? I believe Occupy had a role in getting discussion of that topic into the mainstream.