I think @Stranger_On_A_Train has nicely summarized the various forms of corruption that are common in the US, and why they tend to be accepted.
But as a counter-point I would just add that on most corruption standards the US actually doesn’t do that poorly. So while things may be trended downward, there is still quite a long way to go. Certainly the US doesn’t have “total corruption” on the order of, say, Russia or China.
I would also disagree with the claim that “the American political system accepts corruption”. I think that at least from a marketing perspective almost all Americans would disagree with that statement. What you have instead is that claims of political corruption have become partisan. So if Democrats go after Trump, the GOP claims witch hunt. And similarly when the GOP goes after Hunter Biden. (Note: I am not equating these two situations - I am just pointing out that political corruption has been subsumed by party politics).
Well at present it appears the the Democrats don’t go after corrupt Republicans. There’s a frankly half-assed attempt by the Garland DOJ to go after Trump and some of his key officials for trying to overthrow the government. AFAIK There isn’t really a serious effort to punish him or any of the people he surrounded himself with for corruption and extremely gross misuse of all of our money in addition to the way he almost openly allowed foreign governments to bribe him. And even now the way Trump handles his campaign with donations and the like is extremely shady to say the least and he apparently doesn’t see much reason to scale that back.
America is of course not the most corrupt country out there. And we actually do tend to take ethics and corruption/COI seriously in some areas - expecially civil service positions and the like. There seems to be this isolated class of elites that play by a different set of rules. I guess for better or worse that hasn’t pervaded down to the rest of society.
And of course I wouldn’t say that no country is entirely free from corruption especially at the highest levels. It’s a matter of degree. I unfortunately don’t think the US takes it as seriously as we could.
You have a hilariously narrow and parochial definition of “corruption.” Perhaps if you live for another 100 years, you might get around to broadening your horizons. You might even figure out that – gasp – many other countries are far more corrupt. (Assuming of course, that you can bear to interrupt your melodramatic navel-gazing.) You sound like a college student who has just discovered Karl Marx.
Ah, I thought that might be what you meant, but I wasn’t sure. Yeah, you’re probably right. The US has more power, wealth, and influence than most nations (maybe more than any other), and so has a lot more to screw up. And it has a bigger impact on the world at large as well. It’s sort of a “with great powers comes great responsibility” thing, and the US isn’t nearly responsible enough.
Your position here is the sort of complacent acceptance that rationalizes the “total corruption” my OP is trying to address. It’s bad enough that we boast of “equality under the law” and “a society in which anyone can achieve anything” and on and on, while actively working to maintain a system hellbent on preventing those ideals from actually operating in a meaningful way, but we also have insult added to injury in the form of clowns like you mocking my suggestion that this state of affairs actually exists.
You are the heart of the problem–not the rich guys trying to suck resources into their own (well, their corporations’) bank accounts, and away from the miserable millions living in poverty and struggle and squalor and jail and misery every day of their lives. No, they’re just following a kind of sociopathic side of human nature, the side that says “Everyone is out for himself, best to grab everything you can get away with and fuck everyone else.” Nothing to be done about this aberrant personality, I suppose–all we can do is look at it clearly, and erect barriers to their ease in accomplishing their sociopathic goals. But that’s hard–my conclusion is “it’s impossible”–because of enablers like you who vote Republican and insist “It’s not bad–in fact, we’re relatively UNcorrupt here, based on the average society in humankind, dating back to the cannibalistic ape-hordes we descend from, so get used to human nature being all red in tooth and claw, and spending the rest of your life getting exploited by the rich and powerful. Always been that way, always will, and nothing you can do about it, not even trying to bring this woeful fact to people’s attention. Ha, ha, on you, loser!!!”
Yeah, he needs to go talk to someone who is from somewhere that’s actually corrupt, in the sense that it’s wound into the fabric of daily life.
In graduate school four or five of us were standing around chatting at some kind of business school luncheon that they’d put on, and three of the five of us were foreign students- Turkey, Mexico and India were were they were from, while the other two of us were from the US (Texas in particular).
What was so amazing was that here, everyone expects the government to function on its own, according to its own rules. So corruption in the US typically takes the form of greasing palms to circumvent or bend rules, or in modifying the rules themselves to your advantage. In the other countries, there was just a sort of baseline expectation that any interaction with the government required you to grease at least one person’s palm. College admissions was one of the examples we discussed- in the US, the expectation is that if you meet the standards, you’re either admitted, or at least considered, and if there’s crookedness, it’s in bending/breaking the rules a-la Lori Laughlin. But in the other countries, you were just expected to bribe the admissions officer outright just for consideration regardless of your actual qualifications. It was how business was done. Vehicle inspections were another- here, you expect a car in good repair to pass the test, and the inspection to cost whatever the fee is. Corruption only comes in if your car won’t pass. But in other countries, the expectation would be that you’d have to grease a palm or two just to get the inspection done, but you could expect a pass as a result.
Most of what the OP is griping about is a combination of sour grapes that the ultra-rich exist, and somewhat unfocused anger against the fact that society and our government allow them to exist at all, instead of doing some sort of half-baked Robin Hood scheme because “we know they don’t deserve their fortunes.”
OK, you seem to be blithely accepting of the rampant corruption in U.S. society because you think you’ve found some foreign cultures that are even more corrupt. Good show! Makes my point for me wonderfully.
Glad we got off the narrow example of the IRS, though. I’m really trying to address the much broader corruption endemic through all of U.S. society. People who offered defenses of the IRS not going targeting the ultra-rich made some sense, in that it may bring less revenue, and use up more resources, to do it that way, but my point is that it’s not right. A society that tells the rich, “Do whatever you like, break any law, and if you’re rich enough or connected enough, we won’t bother you” doesn’t deserve my respect, and isn’t really trying to gain anything other than my contempt. A society with that as its bedrock principle doesn’t deserve to exist, which is where “we suck” comes in, but we suck far more profoundly than our tax collection. That’s just a small piece, and I’m glad we got off that.
Our prison sentencing is about the most racist thing I can imagine, short of slavery. Unequal sentences for people of color committing the same crimes as white folks is just out there, smacking anyone in the face who cares to look at it, and we seem to be fine with that. I honestly don’t understand how someone can spout any of that “Equal justice under the law” crap with a straight face, but I guess there’s a lot I don’t understand about hypocrisy. I do appreciate all you nice folks chiming in to tell me that we are not in your view a corrupt society–there’s really no better proof possible of my contention that we simply have accepted our total corruption than people angrily informing me that we’re not all that corrupt and that I’m just whining over nothing.
There is a diffuse threshhold at which wealth becomes a thing that is no longer a matter of comfort and status but merely about exerting power over others in an arbitrary sort of way. And if there is an actual thing that can be defined as “evil”, that thing cannot exist in absence of power, which means that wealth is one of its prime facilitators.
“Deserve” is also an interesting concept. What does any person truly deserve? Statistical analysis pdf strongly suggests that luck is as significant a factor in success as is ability, effort and persistence – it is no accident that great wealth is a “fortune”. And really, what are the financial markets if not big casinos?
Our cultural attitude has devolved into SEP: Somebody Else’s Problem. It is the norm to do what we do and push the details out of sight for someone else to deal with. In this way, the wealthy are disconnected with their greater holdings, apart from lines on the ledger. Maybe this can be seen as a good thing, allowing big things to be accomplished through distribution of effort, but the deleterious effects of being so out of touch across the breadth of society have not been adequately explored because, well, we have developed a habit of not really looking at things, especially if the view makes us uncomfortable. Hell, maybe even wealth itself is not actually a good thing if it indeed leads to myopia and the facilitation of bad acts.
I see what the OP is getting at, but things are being a bit conflated.
The US has a lot of what I think of as legalized corruption. This is things like regulatory capture and corporate lobbying. There’s no need to break the rules when you can use legal means to write the rules in your own favor. This is a form of corruption only available to the rich and powerful.
Fighting it is really hard, because part of convincing politicians to change the rules also involves convincing the populace that the rules should be changed. Suggest tightening the rules on tax breaks for the rich, and you get a bunch of people waving their hands and yelling things about the Laffer curve.
Another big form of legalized government corruption is civil asset forfeiture. It might not count as corruption, because it’s completely legal.
The other thing mentioned is systemic racism. That’s a completely different kind of corruption. Many people like to propagate it by denying it exists. Just look at the median wealth difference between white and black families and then argue that systemic racism doesn’t exist.
Of course, those two things can definitely work together to make things really suck. Corporate prisons are a good example of that. Privately owned prisons have every incentive to continue racist incarceration practices, because it increases the number of paying clients. They don’t even have to care about the racist aspects, just that in practice it brings them more money.
The mentioned civil asset forfeiture also contains systemic racism.
What the US doesn’t have too much of is classic low-level bribery based corruption. As mentioned, I don’t have to pay any bribes to register my car, pass a construction inspection, etc.
That’s one way to look at it, but none of that necessarily follows merely from the accumulation of wealth. It’s about as foolish as claiming that poverty makes someone criminal. Wealth doesn’t make anyone evil either. It may possibly increase the chances that they’re going to be a self-centered dickhead, but it’s not a guarantee.
I think that diffuse threshold is a LOT higher than we suspect. Like in the low-mid tens of millions for a large metro area, and in the high tens/hundreds of millions at a state level, and probably in the billions at a national level. Merely being in the 1% doesn’t even come close, with an annual income around $600k. Nor does having a few million in assets (which you can absolutely end up with without screwing anyone over).
If I had to assign blame for the wealth inequality problems we see today, I’d lay it with the government for not tagging the minimum wage to some sort of index or rate (CPI, inflation, etc…) so that the rate would automatically rise periodically to keep pace with the economic conditions. I don’t necessarily blame business owners or managers for selling high and paying low w.r.t. labor- that’s like blaming a male dog for peeing on everything he can; it’s what they do. Which is why external wage mandates are necessary- it raises the floor, and everything else eventually bumps up a bit to compensate. And as a bonus, it distributes some of that wealth via payroll and keeps it from being concentrated in the owner’s hands. But I wouldn’t expect the businesses to do any of that of their own accord, unless they see a return on it. That’s just wishful thinking.
I had a thread about wealthy people and whether or not they pay their fair share of taxes. Here’s a kind of summary post from within:
Why wouldn’t monkeying with marginal tax rates really alter revenue ? I suspect it’s everything I reference: the intentionallyl labyrinthine Tax Code – a road map to corruption and away from the vaunted “Free Market.”
I also agree with the macro idea that the US – call it corruption or not – may beat out all the other advanced economies when it comes to profiting from misery (a/k/a perverse incentives), whether that be law-justice-crime-punishment, sickness/health, war (“defense”), substance abuse …
But the idea that monied interests have such an outsized role in crafting our legislation and social policy (I’ve long said we need to get the money out of politics before real change is even remotely possible, but we’ve gone the wrong way in rather eye-popping fashion – see: Citizens United, et al) is like if Lia Thomas, the high-profile transgender female swimming star, had written the very laws that allowed her to compete against Assigned Female At Birth swimmers.
Which she didn’t.
[It’s also funny that the same people who violently defend the wealthy for getting ahead pillory Ms. Thomas for doing essentially the same thing, but truly through hard work and – apparently – with clean hands]
In the US, wealthy people are directly and/or indirectly responsible for the loopholes that they exploit, and then ask what’s wrong with simply following the law.
“Disingenuous” isn’t a strong enough word.
It’s also akin to when Dick Cheney gave a highly questionable quote to the New York Times in an interview (about the runup to the Iraq War (?)), and then – shortly after – referenced the same dubious statement and cited as his source [wait for it] the New York Times.
No. Baksheesh isn’t the coin of the realm in the US, mostly. But as others have said, we do the baksheesh thing writ large – commensurate with a ginormous GDP.
It reminds me a bit of that movie, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” We’re sort of the Michael Caine of corruption. Many other countries are more the Steve Martin types.
In emerging nations where the corruption is out, loud, and proud, a tiny handful of the robber barons wear $3,000 suits. Because of the David/Goliath aspect at play, here (IMHO), we have a decidedly higher number of these types working the system.
ISTM that corrupt money steadfastly refuses to trickle down like it’s supposed to. Not without a helluva fight, anyway.
There are just so many ways to view this entire culture as inequitable and designed to be that way: financial, political, legal, racial and on and on. It’s quite amazing that so many are riled by the suggestion that this is so, which is exactly what I mean by “accepting total corruption.” it pervades our lives to such a degree that people feel threatened by any solution that criticizes the status quo even mildly, much less radically. Personally, it nudges me into the literal “eat the rich” group. Though I have been trying to cut back on my red meat intake recently.
At 58, I sometimes wonder the same thing, and sure hope I don’t have to find out.
Haven’t read the whole thread, so maybe this has been addressed, but the fact that two members of the prominent Murdaugh family, in South Carolina, were killed in cold blood has been shoved aside because the corruption engaged in by the prime suspect and his family has overridden it.