Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Politicians as Moral Defectives - The Herr Blagojevich Third World Thugocracy Edition

A good friend and fellow libertarian blogger partially inspired the title. I lived in Chicago for several years so I am fully aware of the sorts of scumbags, lowlifes and other esteemed members of society that gravitate towards the Chicago political machine or Illinois politics in general. I vividly remember the car accident that claimed the lives of six children that ultimately uncovered a license-for-bribes scandal that, among other things, put former Governor George Ryan in jail for a 6 1/2-year term. Ryan's arrogance through the whole episode was sickening.

I never paid much attention to Blagojevich nor was I living in Illinois when he was elected governor. Nonetheless, even by politician standards, the man is a disgrace. His little payola scam for the Illinois Senate seat notwithstanding, a recent column by Joe Queenan in the Washington Post describes one of Blagojevich's finer moments (via Cato-at-Liberty):

What’s far more worrisome is Blagojevich’s bizarre confrontation with the Bank of America. The day before he was arrested on charges of massive corruption, Blagojevich visited a group of striking workers at a North Chicago firm called Republic Windows & Doors. After being laid off the week before, the employees had begun a sit-in, demanding benefits they were still owed by their employer, which said it could not meet their demands because the Bank of America had cut off its financing. At this point, Blagojevich informed bank officials that unless they restored the shuttered window-and-door company’s line of credit, the state of Illinois would suspend all further business with Bank of America. A few days later, the bank caved in and ponied up a $1.35 million loan.

The idea that the governor of a state as prosperous and important and sophisticated and upscale as Illinois would make this kind of threat is terrifying. Even more terrifying is that Bank of America saw no alternative but to give in. Yet even more terrifying is that nobody outside Chicago seems to have gotten terribly worked up about the situation, riveted as they are on the governor’s more theatrical transgressions. But peddling a Senate seat or using scare tactics to shake down a newspaper are nowhere near so serious a menace to society as letting the government arbitrarily intervene in financial transactions between banks and creditors. A crooked governor we can all handle. But a governor who capriciously decides which commercial enterprises a bank must finance and which it can ignore is a scary proposition indeed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But get the wrong politician in office, and you can burn it in a day. What the grandstanding Blagojevich reportedly attempted to do in the Republic Windows vs. Bank of America set-to is precisely the sort of thing that happens in China, where the government routinely orders up bank loans to politically connected firms. Whether a failing company actually deserves financing becomes irrelevant to the conversation; the government doesn’t want a company to fail, so it decides that it must not go under, even if it’s run by clowns, stooges, gangsters or in-laws. (emphasis added)

Not to give New York State politicians a pat on the back (unless it's hard enough to cause, ahem, discomfort), at least when they attempt to shake the citizenry down, they make a half-hearted (if not transparent) attempt under the guise of taxation, "user fees" or something that gives the aura of legitimacy like a state budget (i.e taxing digital downloads). Blagojevich's act is nothing more than a direct shakedown. This is the act of a low-level criminal thug. Politicians interfering with financial transactions is nothing new but to see the governor of a state behave in this manner in the brazen manner that he has sets a new low. I'm speechless.