The people's voice of reason

Federal Bribes $

Every person with even a whit of common sense knows that bribery is illegal and fundamentally wrong. But people still do it all the time.

Some are rather petty. I know a fellow, whose name I will not mention, who has used bribery as a means of getting out of traffic tickets. Back in the days when he was a practicing doctor, he faced many situations where getting to patients and appointments promptly was crucial in administering aid to save people’s lives. As a result, he was often caught exceeding the posted speed limits and pulled over. To avoid accumulating too many points on his license, he always stashed a $100 bill next to his license and handed them both together to the trooper whenever he was stopped. He told me it worked every time; the trooper accepted the bill and declined to give him a citation.

A bribe like this, although considered wrong and could get someone in serious trouble if it was refused, would be considered minor since he had not endangered anybody. He had not done anything reckless. He had only exceeded the posted limits that, more often than not, are well below the safe driving limits of most highways.

Other bribes are far more serious. There are many cases where Congressmen, Senators, state legislators, judges, and various other public servants are offered bribes to support special interest pieces of legislation, dismissals of criminals, and other special favors. An example would be a group of hairdressers banding together and offering money or gifts to their representatives to pass strict licensing laws to limit newcomers that could compete with their professions. Another would be a group of used car dealers pushing for a sales tax on old cars sold by individuals.

Still more serious are bribes concocted by our public servants. As a hypothetical example, in a ruse to make a quick buck, Senator “A” buys a large farm at a distress auction at a low price. He knows he could not re-sell it at much of a profit on the open market, especially after commissions and closing costs are deducted. But he comes up with a plan to build a new highway that is not needed and introduces it. He knows it will be a tough sell. He knows eminent domain will be needed to complete parts of it. His fellow representatives and senators balk. He offers some money to key members. They still balk. He adds some plots of land fronting on the new highway. Eventually, after some effort and some contractor friends chipping in, he gets a bill passed to build another park project—like the one that condemned John Sophocleus’ home in Auburn for half its market value a couple of decades ago.

Finally, we have the worst bribes of all—Federal bribes. These got started back in the 1970’s under the ruse of “revenue sharing.” If a state, county, or municipality put up “matching funds,” it could get a new project at half price or even less, since Federal funds would finance a huge portion of it. Since politicians love to spend other people’s money many state and local governments, and their contractors, could not resist the temptation of bargain basement park projects. This wicked practice continues to this day.

The result is a massive pandemic of reckless public spending for projects that have little or no value and in some cases do more harm than good, even if they were free. We lose both federal, state, and local dollars in the process. The consequences are enormous—environmental impact, loss of independence, indebtedness, neglect of legitimate functions and services, and tax increases everywhere. They are essentially money pits that not only have huge initial costs, but heavy maintenance costs that continue for decades, until finally, the projects become obsolete and are scrapped—like Chicago’s infamous public housing project, Kabrini Green. A particularly nasty example is the notorious Kelo vs. New London eminent domain snafu that spent many millions of dollars to uproot thousands of people from their homes and transform a fine upper class neighborhood into a barren wasteland. Another is the perennial imposition of traffic enforcement blitzkriegs on holiday weekends where the Feds chip in funding to conscript all available policemen and troopers away from their homes and families to prowl the highways and set up “sobriety” roadblocks to harass motorists and cite them for every trivial violation imaginable.

Long ago, the time has passed for oppressive government follies like these to come to an abrupt end. When are our leaders going to have enough backbone to shut them all down?


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