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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

“Just to wet my beak”

Let’s step back from the Blagojevich scandal for a moment and compare it with some other recent events in Washington that, though they are not considered scandals, should be.

Let’s step back from the Blagojevich scandal for a moment and compare it with some other recent events in Washington that, though they are not considered scandals, should be.

None of this is meant to minimize the creepy behavior that Blagojevich, assuming what is alleged turns out to be true, took part in. Certainly, trading your political power for strictly personal gain is low, scandalous, and slimy. Interestingly, the amount of money being talked about here, for which Blagojevich was willing to trade a powerful seat in the Senate, is almost pathetically low. Allegedly, Jesse Jackson Jr. was to pay five hundred grand up front, and get another million dollars raised, to pay for his seat in the Senate.

Senators routinely make decisions that decide the direction and fate of literally thousands of industries and businesses. Senators, as a rule, don’t even bother with budget figures only in the millions. I recall, decades ago, how the former California Senator S. I. Hayakawa described Senate budget meetings in which a bunch of old guys would gather around a table and talk about budgets. One senator would say, “I think we should raise the budget on this from six to seven.” What that meant was, six to seven billion dollars. Senators don’t even bother saying the billion part.

Then, said Hayakawa, everyone around the table would look around, nod assent, and raise their hands signifying agreement. And with that simple gesture, with little or no debate, they just spent one billion bucks.

And here we are as a nation, getting all bent out of shape over a crooked politician wanting to get just a little, measly one million dollar cut of the action.

You may recall, in the Godfather, how the Black Hand explains to shopkeepers in his district that he really doesn’t want to take all their money. “Just enough to wet my beak,” is the way he puts it.

Well, I have often said that the only difference between the Mafia and the federal government is that the Mafia charges much more reasonable rates.

But seriously, folks. Why is it that so many people get upset over a petty, ugly little scandal involving a millions bucks, that’s not even taxpayer money? Yet, consider this tawdry little million dollar bribe in comparison with just some of the most recent mind-blowing expenditures of stolen loot. Is this bribe significant at all compared to the half a trillion dollars spent by the Department of Defense? And what do we, the taxpayers, get for our half-trillion dollar expenditure? An empire no one wants.

What is a million dollar bribe, compared to 700 billion dollars spent rescuing the government’s favored corporations? Or the fifteen to twenty-five billion bucks spent rescuing failing automobile firms?

Don’t you think if you’re forced to throw money at an automobile company, you should at least get–you know–a car out of the deal? But American taxpayers won’t even get that. In essence, we are now told we must pay money to Ford, GM, and Chrysler, whether we buy their cars or not.

If a million dollar bribe is a scandal, shouldn’t a $120 million bribe be even more so? But it isn’t. See for a description of the bribes paid by the US government to the rulers of Anbar Province in Iraq, as a way of getting them to go along with the US occupation.

Undoubtedly, a lot of politicians, when soliciting bribes, don’t even think it’s a big deal. And they’re right. In comparison with the gigantic sacks of stolen loot they toss around every day, what’s a million bucks to wet their beaks?

UPDATE [December 15, 2008]: An excellent article along these lines was published today at See . Basically, politics is about nothing more than trading favors using threats and bribes, so it is most amusing that so many feign outrage when one of the robber barons we call politicians gets caught being too un-subtle in his bribery.

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