Just how corrupt is our government?

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I just finished reading about yet ANOTHER pick by Obama that after tax review owes back taxes on his returns. I've always had a feeling that the majority of government officials may not have played by the rules but I'm really starting to question the lot of them...

This time it's the trade rep pick Former Dallas Texas mayor Ron Kirk who owes 10K for his past 05 thru 07 returns. Now I understand that the level of review for a regular return versus the level of review when you're going to hold a position in the government is going to be a lot more in depth but COME ONE PEOPLE.

What would happen if there was an audit of every single government official from the rank of governor up to the President.

I'm really starting to lose faith in our government. We no longer have people in office that are faced with the same issues and problems of the common man. We seem to have a bunch of extremely rich people that have bought their way into a position of power. This position of power puts them in a place where they no longer have to worry about anything ever again no matter what they do or how bad they perform. Even if they are voted out of office it's not like they will ever be impacted by this economic crisis we're facing.

Perhaps I'm just in a funk today, but it really seems like across the US we have a collection of people that are supposed to be leading us (be it government or private corporation) and none of them have any real view of what it's like to be a common person anymore. They just don't seem to understand that there are repercussions to their actions; instead they run around doing whatever they want without a care in the world.

Maybe we can pay off the deficit by doing tax audit on everyone in that works for the fed.

I'm starting to wonder if the IRS may be involved here; are they intervening in politics by auditing every Democrat they can?

Malor wrote:

I'm starting to wonder if the IRS may be involved here; are they intervening in politics by auditing every Democrat they can?

I think it's much more likely that their opponents in government have hired former IRS auditors to go through every nominee's taxes.

Well, it could also be that the Obama Administration has set a higher bar for vetting after the initial incidents.

Robear wrote:

Well, it could also be that the Obama Administration has set a higher bar for vetting after the initial incidents.

Could be, but you would think, if that were the case, the people wouldn't be nominated in the first place - too embarrassing, especially now.

Aetius wrote:
Malor wrote:

I'm starting to wonder if the IRS may be involved here; are they intervening in politics by auditing every Democrat they can?

I think it's much more likely that their opponents in government have hired former IRS auditors to go through every nominee's taxes.

If the auditors find problems, that's not really their fault. One could make the argument that they're looking much harder at Obama's nominees than they did Bush's or would McCain's but that doesn't mean the guys aren't cheating on their taxes.

What happened to the days of the skeleton in the closet being undocumented household workers? Is that a Republican thing? Republicans hire illegal aliens, Democrats cheat on their taxes?

Quintin_Stone wrote:

What happened to the days of the skeleton in the closet being undocumented household workers? Is that a Republican thing? Republicans hire illegal aliens, Democrats cheat on their taxes?

I'm pretty sure all rich people do both, and all politicians are rich. <--- flawless logic!

It's just a matter of what people focus on. Democrats are supposedly all about higher taxes so it's hypocritical when they cheat on their taxes and Republicans are supposedly all about stopping illegal immigration so it's hypocritical when they hire illegal aliens. And as we all know, if someone is a hypocrite, the opposite of what they say is true.

My dad (who is a very left-wing product of 60's england) frequently refers to the US government as 'the best democracy money can buy'.

I think there is a long, rich tradition of politicians being massively corrupt, regardless of governmental system, religion, modernity and so on. I have a feeling that it goes with the territory.

There's only one solution: anyone who wants to be in a position of power should be automatically disqualified from politics. Not very helpful, I know...

Sonicator wrote:

I think there is a long, rich tradition of politicians being massively corrupt, regardless of governmental system, religion, modernity and so on. I have a feeling that it goes with the territory.

Indeed. When I read an issue of The Economist, I don't walk away saying, "gee, look at how clean everyone else's politicians are!"

IMAGE(http://punditkitchen.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/political-pictures-barack-obama-irs-auditor.jpg)

*Legion* wrote:
Sonicator wrote:

I think there is a long, rich tradition of politicians being massively corrupt, regardless of governmental system, religion, modernity and so on. I have a feeling that it goes with the territory.

Indeed. When I read an issue of The Economist, I don't walk away saying, "gee, look at how clean everyone else's politicians are!"

I've always believed that where there is influence, and money to buy influence, there's corruption. The mark of a society is how it deals with the discovery of corruption, in the West the guilty parties step down, in Africa they deny, deny, deny and get re-elected.

Obama is just filling the budget gap by nominating everyone who's behind on their taxes.

10k? Seriously? With the kind of money these people make that's a decimal error. ANYONE who itemizes on their tax returns and gets audited will either owe or be owed money. No matter how good your tax preparer is, the IRS will find something in an audit - especially if they're really looking (not all audits are created equal). It could be as simple as a receipt for donated goods that you can no longer find to using a tax credit (like the HOPE for education) improperly when you didn't really qualify or some other error. Here's a good example:

Do I pay taxes on the GI Bill money I receive for my education? Can I claim the expense of education if it's funded by that tax free money? How much can I claim if my coroporation kicks in 10%? What are defined as "my costs" versus "funded costs". Taxes are so insanely stupid complicated that even tax preparers struggle and make errors. Oops - I made an error in 2006? OK IRS, here's your 10k, now we're even.

The average IRS audit costs the auditee about $4,200 in taxes and penalties - and recently the GAO said the IRS auditor is wrong as much as 60-90% of the time. #1 rule - don't get audited.

Shoal07 wrote:

10k? Seriously? With the kind of money these people make that's a decimal error.

This is just wrong.

The current cheat did not claim honorarium for giving speeches. He ignored his responsibility. I have a stack of 1099 tax forms for the very same thing. It is less than 10% of my income, am I allowed to just 'forget' to report the income?

If I have to take the care to report my income why wouldn't someone who is going to represent the trade interests of the free world? His attention to detail is obviously lacking.

Arise thread! (I was going to start a new Political Corruption Catch-All thread, but this one seem appropriate.)

It's nice to see Aaron Schock resign, but he also needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

John Stewart also did a great piece on corruption in New Jersey.

From skimming campaign donations to accepting gifts from lobbyists to capitalizing on insider trading, do some (or all?) politicians feel as though as long as they are "giving back to their community" somehow that they also get to cash in personally? Or am I being naive about why people get into politics and it's simply about power and personal gain?

I have seen a full range. I've known some people in politics who were literally "public servants", and I've read about some who were totally into it for the power and money. I'm sure there's an entire spectrum in between.

The thing to consider is that there are many politicians, at all levels, who in their career will never compromise themselves in this way. It's not a good thing to believe that just because someone has a particular role that they are corrupt. It leads to a jaundiced and corrosive understanding of the world.

The idea that "all politicians are corrupt", while an old one, is a theme that in the last few decades has not been used to argue for increased vigilance against corruption, but rather for the idea that government is bad. "All politicians are corrupt, therefore, we can't trust government, therefore, we must make it tiny and ineffective". This is an extremely dangerous notion for a society to have, especially since we have accepted enough of it that we are now reading of real, concrete examples of legitimate government functions being crippled by zealots and ideologues to the benefit of their sponsors.

I would even say that the *idea* that all government is corrupt has succeeded in allowing laws and practices that are more corrupt than when this current political climate began in the 80's. We've been convinced that government is so bad that we've allowed it to weaken enough that individual corruption has been succeeded by institutional corruption disguised as regulatory and legal changes that will "increase freedom".

We've accepted a mirage of "personal freedom" as a principle that trumps oversight, regulation, protection of the people from abuses and many other principles that are part of why government exists in the first place. It's a mirage because it's not making people's lives better; it's making them worse, and we're paying the ideologues to increase their wealth at the expense of our wealth, health, safety and quality of life.

PaladinTom wrote:

Or am I being naive about why people get into politics and it's simply about power and personal gain?

The short answer is: yes.

At its most fundamental level, government is about using violent aggression to force some people to do what other people want - large-scale organized bullying. You can argue about whether or not what the government does is necessary, but its fundamental nature is routinely exposed when people refuse to behave as ordered. (See the response to the Occupy movement and Ferguson for recent examples inside the United States.)

For my part, I'm always confused as to why people are surprised by political corruption. This fundamental nature of government attracts the kind of people who are perfectly willing to visit all manner of horrific violence on their fellow humans in order to get what they want; it should thus come as no surprise that historical trend in government is to be overwhelmingly populated with amoral power-hungry sociopaths.This is further exacerbated in the US by an electoral system that is essentially a large-scale high-school popularity contest, rewarding those who are connected, good-looking, charismatic, willing to say whatever is necessary to get elected, and willing to do whatever is necessary to get and retain power. In that environment, getting paid off to dispense government favors is simply the essence day-to-day governance; the ones who are forced to resign or briefly go to jail are simply the ones who were inept at the game or lost a political conflict.

The default assumptions should be that a) politicians are self-interested, like everyone else, and b) they are in a position where corruption is not only easy and natural, but is both institutionalized and a requirement for success. Once you apply those assumptions, a lot of things about how the government operates become a lot easier to understand.

PaladinTom wrote:

From skimming campaign donations to accepting gifts from lobbyists to capitalizing on insider trading, do some (or all?) politicians feel as though as long as they are "giving back to their community" somehow that they also get to cash in personally?

One final note on this particular issue: politicians never "give back to the community". Government has no resources of its own, and politicians as a rule never hand out their own money; thus, in order for politicians to give something to someone, they must first take it from someone else. Any time you see a politician "giving" to anyone, follow the money - it's guaranteed there's a grumpy taxpayer, an unlucky driver, or a corrupt supporter on the other end, and a deal in the works to favor someone over everyone else.

That may be the most cynical thing I've ever read. And I thought I was jaded.

I'd give a more constructive response, but unfortunately you have such a completely different viewpoint on civilization than I do that we could never reconcile our viewpoints, Aetius. That makes me sad to write.

Aetius wrote:

This fundamental nature of government attracts the kind of people who are perfectly willing to visit all manner of horrific violence on their fellow humans in order to get what they want;

I agree with everything you said (the C.S. Lewis quote is in a list of quotes I keep as well) other than this. We would literally be chanting "The Emperor Protects" if that were true; but there may be mitigating factors.

This is why it's important to vote and write-in and give money to your favorite lobby, they won't pander if they don't know about you.

This fundamental nature of government attracts the kind of people who are perfectly willing to visit all manner of horrific violence on their fellow humans in order to get what they want; it should thus come as no surprise that historical trend in government is to be overwhelmingly populated with amoral power-hungry sociopaths.

Edit.

Nevermind.

Aetius wrote:

Things.

Thanks for this. Usually all I can muster is "burn it down and start over". There was a decent Extra Credits where they said that if someone presented them with the design of the US government and the goal of "make life better for people in the US" they would fail that student without a thought.

In fact, that's a great video.

And it's apparently one out of a series of three. Neat!

Person A - has surplus food.

Person B - is starving.

Libertarianism is the idea that the death of person B is less important than the right of person A to maintain their property to their own benefit.

Someone else's life is less important than your own property. There are many other problems with it, even just at a pragmatic level, but this is one of the most egregious ethical problems to be found in the system.

Robear wrote:

Person A - has surplus food.

Person B - is starving.

Libertarianism is the idea that the death of person B is less important than the right of person A to maintain their property to their own benefit.

Someone else's life is less important than your own property. There are many other problems with it, even just at a pragmatic level, but this is one of the most egregious ethical problems to be found in the system.

The Purge movies are excellent examples of applied libertarian principles.

It's interesting that people whose societies have collapsed do not show a natural tendency to self-organize into individualist communities. Instead, the tendency is to towards collectivism of some form.

Robear wrote:

Person A - has surplus food.

Person B - is starving.

Libertarianism is the idea that the death of person B is less important than the right of person A to maintain their property to their own benefit.

How did you come to this conclusion?
Also, no country is Libertarian and this still happens.

Reaper81 wrote:
Robear wrote:

Person A - has surplus food.

Person B - is starving.

Libertarianism is the idea that the death of person B is less important than the right of person A to maintain their property to their own benefit.

Someone else's life is less important than your own property. There are many other problems with it, even just at a pragmatic level, but this is one of the most egregious ethical problems to be found in the system.

The Purge movies are excellent examples of applied libertarian principles.

Again, in what way?
I just thought the Purge movies were applied bullsh*t, but I'm sure for many it's toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe.

Robear wrote:

It's interesting that people whose societies have collapsed do not show a natural tendency to self-organize into individualist communities. Instead, the tendency is to towards collectivism of some form.

A system can only afford individualism if one has autonomy, and autonomy is counter-productive if basic security isn't present. Also, any government at all is collectivist to some degree, even at a level of a village of ~150 people.
Also, because of the Libertarianism mentioned above, is it a coincidence or do you feel individualist == libertarian?
They are not the same.

RolandofGilead wrote:
Robear wrote:

It's interesting that people whose societies have collapsed do not show a natural tendency to self-organize into individualist communities. Instead, the tendency is to towards collectivism of some form.

A system can only afford individualism if one has autonomy, and autonomy is counter-productive if basic security isn't present. Also, any government at all is collectivist to some degree, even at a level of a village of ~150 people.
Also, because of the Libertarianism mentioned above, is it a coincidence or do you feel individualist == libertarian?
They are not the same.

And who provides that security? You can't trust anyone. We've established that up-thread.

RolandofGilead wrote:
Reaper81 wrote:
Robear wrote:

Person A - has surplus food.

Person B - is starving.

Libertarianism is the idea that the death of person B is less important than the right of person A to maintain their property to their own benefit.

Someone else's life is less important than your own property. There are many other problems with it, even just at a pragmatic level, but this is one of the most egregious ethical problems to be found in the system.

The Purge movies are excellent examples of applied libertarian principles.

Again, in what way?
I just thought the Purge movies were applied bullsh*t, but I'm sure for many it's toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe.

One night a year, society truly is a meritocracy.

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