As someone who spent 12 years in Catholic schools as a child, and is now an atheist, I usually have no use for the Church. But what struck me today was this article in The Atlantic regarding the recent Pope Francis apostolic exhortation criticizing the inequality created by capitalism around the world along with capitalistic values in general. A fascinating development and article.
It was concluded today Countrywide Financial, one of the most egregious criminals of the housing bubble crisis, was using its tools to buy influence with members of Congress.
Countrywide was offering discounted loans and other perks to Congress members and other officials in order to benefit its business interests.
To put it simply, they were bribing elected officials. And they were doing this to continue the business practices they knew were bad for the country in the long run but made them huge profits in the short run. Which, in the interests of pure capitalism, is totally fine because the market will correct itself. The majority of us just have to suffer while that recovery happens and while a tiny minority reap the rewards of their horrible measures. (Note: if you read the article, good luck finding any punishments being handed out to the people who benefited from this.)
Clear and obvious government corruption like this needs a check and balance. The problem is the people who benefit from this corruption (and this corruption) are the same people who make the laws so they aren’t exactly looking to take away their own perks too quickly. Which is why we need a change in the interests of democracy.
We need to implement ballot initiatives and referendums on the federal level in order to check this type of bribery. Congress is never going to do this themselves or, if they do, it will not be effective enough to truly stop the flow of money to themselves and their friends. We don’t even need the initiatives to effect other factors outside of Congressional behavior. It could simply be for the people to check the actions of the members of Congress.
And let’s admit one reality to this. The corruption is really bipartisan. Everyone can throw out names of people in the party they oppose who have been caught (and likely not punished) for ridiculous moral violations pertaining to money in politics but every rational person knows this is a problem on both sides. And since it’s a problem on both sides, not reelecting someone implicated in these cases is not really a solution to stop this. As of now, we are just simply electing someone else who is likely to make the same decisions when it comes to money and allowing wealthy donors to buy their votes.
The federal initiatives and referendums are truly needed to police the corruption in politics and this is a great way to expand the power of democracy in the U.S. Again, we could even limit their use to covering Congressional behavior and corruption if people are too scared to expand it to all issues, although it seems rather anti-democratic to take that approach. (Public recalls would probably be a bad idea considering the circus politics would turn into and also since the Founding Fathers saw the danger in this type of instability for a few reasons.) Regardless, we need laws to stop criminal behavior in Congress and we are without a doubt kidding ourselves if we expect the benefactors of this situation to make these changes.
U.S. Pays Families of Afghan Victims in Massacre by Soldier
This is a major misunderstanding by the Military, the Government, and Americans in general regarding Afghan society: Money is no exchange for lost relatives.
In Afghanistan, families are much closer, and they stay together in the same village for the entirety of their lives barring some terrible event. But in America, families are much more loosely knit.
Also, in America, money is much more important in our culture than it is in Afghanistan. We file civil suits after murders while Afghans live a much more simple life with less importance put on monetary gains in exchange for lives lost.
I was afraid to hear on a recent episode of Frontline that the caricature of American soldiers in Afghanistan is they come and kill your family to only return with freshly pressed money to rectify the situation.