When a non-American scholar I admired let slip a casual reference to
"American corruption" a few years ago, my chauvinistic pride was
wounded. This isn't Mexico, after all, or even Italy, where bribes are
the normal social lubricant. Still, an unsentimental examination of
government dollars at work seems to confirm my friend's observation.
A small example: The U.S. government has announced plans to spend $340
million on an advertising campaign to promote the Census, including $2.5
million for ads during the Super Bowl. Though the nation has been
collecting this data for 220 years, it seems we now need commercial
jingles to complete the forms. Or could there be another agenda? The
government, reports The Hill newspaper, will target $80 million of those
dollars to racial and ethnic minorities and non-English speakers
groups that vote disproportionately Democratic. Nor will Democrats
permit efforts to limit the count to those here legally. An effort by
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to exclude illegal aliens from the count went
Illegal aliens don't (usually) vote, of course. But when they are
counted in the Census, they do affect representation in the Congress. So
some of the money you pay in taxes will go toward increasing the
legislative clout of one party.
That same party has seen to its own perpetuation in other ways, too.
Consider the $787 billion stimulus bill. Veronique de Rugy and Jerry
Brito of George Mason University report that "a total of 56,399
contracts and grants totaling $157,028,362,536 were awarded in this
first quarter for which Recovery.gov reports are available. The number
of jobs claimed as created or saved is 638,826.54 an average of
$245,807.51 per job."
But it gets more interesting. "There are 177 districts represented by
Republicans and 259 represented by Democrats," they write. "On average,
Democratic districts received 1.6 times more awards than Republican
ones. The average number of awards per Republican district is 94, while
the average number of awards per Democratic district is 152." Democratic
districts also received nearly twice the dollar value of funds as
While the stimulus was sold as a solution to unemployment (it was
supposed to keep the rate from going above 8 percent, remember?),
unemployment has continued to climb since passage. That's not surprising
when you consider that the overwhelming majority of funds (116,625
grants) have gone to governments, not the private sector (13,080
Nor does the allocation of stimulus funds appear to bear any relation to
unemployment levels. North Dakota, with an unemployment rate of 4.2
percent, reports 356 jobs "saved or created" with stimulus funds, more
than many states with high unemployment rates. That is, if we can trust
the data. It's important to bear in mind when discussing these numbers
that large numbers of grantees listed on the administration's website
Recovery.org (10 congressional districts in Ohio, one in Connecticut,
several in Iowa and South Carolina) have proven to be nonexistent.
Some private contractors have done handsomely, though. Mark Penn, the
Democratic pollster, received a contract worth $5.97 million to work on
a public relations campaign to promote the national transition from
analog to digital television. His firm worked for 39 days to "bolster
the reach, penetration and impact of the FCC's DTV readiness messages in
selected markets, specifically among the groups that had been determined
to be the most at risk." It saved three jobs!
Yes, everybody does it, and Republicans are not pure either. But that's
not the whole story. Conservative voters, unlike many Democrats, do not
regard government as a scramble for booty. When Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.,
exchanged his vote on health care for a deal that would exempt Nebraska
from Medicaid increases in perpetuity, only 17 percent of the voters in
that conservative state approved. Nelson, who won with 64 percent of the
vote in 2004, is now trailing his likely opponent by 30 points. The
Republican Gov. David Heineman spoke for his state when he told
Politico, "The last few days have made Nebraskans so angry that now it's
a matter of principle. The federal government can keep that money."
There is no way to make government decision-making anything other than
political. As James Madison reminded us, governments would not be
necessary if men were angels. The best course is what the Democrats most
aim to thwart limiting the scope of the state and its aggrandizing
We're not Mexico, but we have corruption, all right.
Under the terrible ancien regime, when the world hated us, and the
terrorists were inspired to attack us because Guantanamo was not listed
in Fodor's Guide (except, gosh, they seem not to have gotten the memo
because they persist in attacking), Abdulmutallab would have been
hustled down to Guantanamo to be interrogated. Yes, interrogated. Not
tortured. Not waterboarded (that happened to only three detainees) but
interrogated about his contacts, his experiences in Yemen, his
explosives training, and so forth. If he wanted better treatment
dessert, videos, music he could purchase these with cooperation.
Not now. His lawyer, Miriam Siefer (who has represented terrorists
before), will advise him to stay silent. We will learn nothing of other
plots Abdulmutallab might have provided leads to, and nothing of the
whereabouts of his supposed mentor, American-born Yemen resident Anwar
al-Awlaki the imam who also incited the Fort Hood killer, had contact
with two of the Sept. 11 terrorists, and who has been described by
Al-Arabiya as "the bin Laden of the Internet."
Speaking of Yemen, in the mad scramble to close Guantanamo by Obama's
self-imposed deadline, just this month the administration released six
detainees to … Yemen, with the promise of 34 more to come. Well,
didn't the Bush administration release two Yemenis to Saudi Arabia who
later moved to Yemen and continued jihad? Answer: Yes. Here's another
question: Why didn't the Obama administration study that failure?
And here's one more question: How does an over-grand, overreaching would-be messiah
learn the humility to at least put first things first?