Saturday, November 28, 2015

The 10,000 Ton Gorilla in the Room… that No One Wants to Talk About

The money sucked down by corrupt officials, largesse siphoned off from the huddled masses, many living on the edge of survival, is staggering. As hard to believe as it might be, had all the bribes, corrupt transactions, misuse of governmental property, cronyism, nepotism, skimming and out-and-out theft been deployed for the benefit of the peoples of within those corrupt nations, states, provinces, cities and even neighborhoods instead of the corrupt circle of government officials, we probably wouldn’t have ISIS, the Taliban, FARC, etc., etc.
The problem seeps into the private sector as well, where bribing and skimming within the corporate world is almost as pervasive as disgusting as with those charged with the public trust. Hard for people with enough to eat in a comfortable house to risk it all to rebel, take up arms and embrace militant, murderous religious extremism. When they have nothing to lose, watch their leaders living luxuriously and not listening to their pleas… not so hard.
Corruption is a massive hard dollar tax on the rest of society. How bad is the problem? “A commonly cited World Bank estimate from 2005 places the total cost of corruption around $1 trillion annually.  Transparency International estimates that in developing countries alone, corrupt officials receive up to $40 billion in bribes each year, and nearly 40 percent of all business executives report that they have been asked to pay a bribe when dealing with a public institution in the past.  Some estimates place the total cost of corruption at more than 5 percent of global GDP each year- this amounts to $2.6 trillion, or 19 times larger than the $134.8 billion spent globally on official development assistance (ODA) in 2013.  At my day job [journalist], we produced a report using World Banks data in February 2014 that estimated private sector corruption alone accounts for $515 billion or more annually.  The point is, it’s hard to nail down the real cost of corruption, but we do know is that it is massive.” Daniel Runde writing in the January 22nd Forbes.com. And as governments topple, those replacing those incumbents take their place at the hog-trough of corruption.
We also have our own issues. We seem to have serial “governmental” occupants in prisons across the land here in the good ole’ USA. Illinois for ex-governors, Louisiana for ex-New Orleans mayors, etc., etc. Senators, congress people, mayors, governors, regulatory board members, police officials, inspectors, etc. I remember a meeting at the New Mexico Governor’s conference room a few years back when a senior elected cabinet official failed to show up (he never missed these meetings). “Oh,” said my seat-neighbor with little or no surprise in his voice, “he’s in a holding cell under a federal bribery indictment.”
Some of American corruption has been legitimized. The right of the rich to use unbridled contributions to SuperPacs under Citizens United is nothing more than the legalizing influence peddling. According to a 2014 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, there are 16 countries in the world viewed as less corrupt than we are. If you want to look are global results, try this link: https://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results Pope Francis has been a champion of the poor and the oppressed, and he too has railed against corrupt officials in his own, humble way.
As the Pope arrived in Kenya in the last week of November (part of a three nation African tour), he decried the regional violence, bringing his prayers for peace in a nation threatened by terror attacks from the jihadist al Shabaab. He also had something to say about corruption. Even as government officials drive their Mercedes automobiles through Nairobi, the country is virtually bankrupt. Parliament itself had to shut its doors for lack of funds. Out of 175 nations measured by the above Transparency Index, Kenya’s massive reputation for corruption places it at 145, or among the worst. The counties where the US recently imposed a government? Iraq is 170, Afghanistan 172. Even worse. The US’ report card on regime change is terrible.
“[The Pope] arrived in Kenya at a time when public confidence in the government is plummeting, the economy is ailing, ethnic tensions are rising and corruption has spiraled out of control. Many Kenyans are hoping that Francis can lift their spirits…
“Kenyans are fed up with the excesses of their political class — five government ministers were fired this week in connection with allegations of graft — and many said they hoped the pope would talk about it.
“Francis did not address the subject directly in his short, upbeat speech Wednesday night at State House, Kenya’s equivalent of the White House. But he did say, to a burst of applause: ‘The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good.’” New York Times, November 25th. Later in his Kenyan trip, he added: “Corruption is something that eats inside, it’s like sugar, it’s sweet, we like it, it’s easy…‘Please… Don’t develop that taste.” Perhaps it is a Darwinian reality that those who get to the top of the food chain take what they can, but a strong governmental structure with severe oversight capacity can moderate that tendency.
The Taliban and ISIS, imposing a horrific and ultra-violent Sharia law on their subjects, rose to power as fierce opponents of the corrupt prior regimes that bilked their subjects and then ignored their pleas for help under severe conditions of drought. Iran’s religious revolutionaries (who subsequently fallen to 136 on the Transparency Index) toppled a mega-corrupt Shah (also installed by the United States). Each of these societies was incented to take action by corruption.
The world is suffering from increasingly scarce resources and overpopulation (with no place to go), and corruption rubs the faces of badly-led nations’ residents in the dirt of undeserved corrupt privilege. Until we address such epidemic unfairness, we can expect those oppressed by its vileness to act as they always have: war and instability are the constant and otherwise unstoppable result.
I’m Peter Dekom, and it’s high time the world started paying attention to the obvious… and begin doing something about it.

1 comment:

Andy D said...

Peter your ability to focus on such relevant issues is astounding. Thank you for your wisdom and energy.

Peace Andrew Davis..