Why The Anti-Corruption Act Matters

 

Caution Bribe Coming Through." March in Washington, DC, April 13, 2013, by Represent.Us/Djembayz

Caution Bribe Coming Through.” March in Washington, DC, April 13, 2013, by Represent.Us/Djembayz

February 19, 2015

United States (TFC) – There is an activist movement going on right now that every American needs to become aware of.  The Anti-Corruption Act makes bold provisions to criminalize the rampant corruption in our country.  Josh Silver is the founder of Represent.Us, a grass roots organization that drafted the provisional Anti-Corruption Act last year.  Represent.Us is designed to recruit local sponsors of the Anti-Corruption Act.  Represent.Us’ goal is to have 12 municipal chapters and 2 state sponsors by the end of this year.  The first ever piece of Anti-Corruption legislation in American history was successfully written into law in Tallahassee, FL on election day of last year.  It passed with a 2 to 1 margin of victory.  Unless he or she is a lobbyist, every voter in the country should want what this bill proposes to make reality.  However, the majority does not even know it exists.  That needs to change.

Earlier this month Missouri Senator Rob Schaaf proposed the Missouri Anti-Corruption Act on the floor of the Missouri State Senate.  He has made Missouri the first state to endorse the Anti-Corruption Act.  However, what happens to nearly every bill passed by Congress happened to Senator Schaaf’s proposal.  The language was altered slightly, completely changing the meaning of the content.  Fortunately, he rejected the revised copy.  This is the way our government works.  Purposefully misleading the public into voting against its own best interest.  It has become routine.  Entire careers are devoted to making us believe we are doing the right thing when in reality we are perpetuating our diseased system of bureaucracy and further separating ourselves from our representatives.

The platform on which Barack Obama swooned a nation, including myself, into believing it was on the precipice of golden futures was a pair of simple, single syllable words.  Change.  The pleasingly simple word that elicits myriad reactions in the minds of those who read it or see it.  Hope.  The intoxicating sensation that comes with the perceived concept of sustainable change and the contagious desire to yell these words at strangers in the street. These were much more than words to many Americans in November 2008.  These were defibrillators on the chest of a bloated, power-drunk nation that had become comatose from over-consumption of its own greed and fear.  Though it was a time of great uncertainty, there was a pulsing beam of forward moving energy at the time.  It was also the first time I could remember a politician that spoke like a human being who was responsible for the well-being of other human beings.  The country was swollen with Hope and dying for Change.

Great orators are often seen differently through the lens of history, however.  Historical hindsight has left Obama’s words as cold and empty as a starved detainee’s redacted CIA torture report file.  Manipulation has many faces.  Cunning knows no loyalty.  Corruption has no ceiling.

How can they get away with this?

Post-economic collapse that seems to be the rhetorical question everyone wants answered.  How DO they get away with it?  Simple.  It isn’t illegal.  8 words added to the Missouri Anti-Corruption Act made it a bill that legalizes corruption.  Ever since the collapse of the British empire during WWII the US became the world’s super power. Since that time there has been ceaseless passing of legislation, both secretly and publicly, that allows our government to do what it’s doing without accountability.

After WWII, the US stopped using the gold standard.  The Federal Reserve Banks were ordered to deposit all of their gold supplies to the US Treasury.  There was no physical, quantifiable marker for distinguishing monetary value anymore.  Paper notes became the universal representation of the imaginary value of the currency printed by the Treasury Department.  The printed currency, which technically has no real value, is loaned, with interest, to the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve supplies all of the countries banks with currency at interest.  This creates a cycle of perpetual debt and endless profit.  In 2013, for example, the Federal Reserve made a profit of $79.5 billion.  $77 billion of that went to the US treasury department.  Today, virtually all money is digital.  The state of the economy, inflation rates, and investing patterns are also determined digitally by programmed algorithms.

The Federal Reserve came into existence in 1913 with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act.  The Federal Reserve itself was conceived in 1907 during a top secret meeting on Jekyll Island between George F. Baker, president of First National Bank, James Stillman, president of National City Bank, and J. Piermont Morgan, founder of JP Morgan Co.  It was here that JP Morgan began his one man crusade of determining which US banks were worth saving.  In his book, “The Death of the Banker,” Ron Chernow describes the events following Jekyll Island, “Through a nonstop flurry of meetings, he [JP Mogan] organized rescues of banks and trust companies, averted a shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange and engineered a financial bailout of New York City.”

It was originally written into the bill that it would be subject to a 20 year charter and proper renewal review procedures would be necessary to keep it afloat.  However, an amendment was passed in 1927 that allowed it to exist until “Congressional review is deemed necessary.”  In fact, in just over 100 years, this bill, originally signed by Woodrow Wilson, has been amended over 200 times.  This is America’s real constitution.  The document that regulates the outward flow of money from its source.  The Federal Reserve is an independent organization with virtually no transparency in regards to its standards and practices.  Its Board of Governors is comprised of 7 members, all appointed by the President.  Each with a term lasting 14 years.

Another interesting fact about our Congress is that they are responsible for determining their own Salaries.  From 1787 to 1818, Senators and Representatives were compensated with a $6 per diem.  In 1818, the Constitution was amended to allow for Congress’ first pay increase to $8 per diem.  In 1856, it was decided that Congress should receive yearly salaries in lieu of daily pay.  Legislation regarding Congressional salaries remained mostly unchanged from that point all the way to 1975 when Congress decided that Congress should receive yearly salary increases to account for the increased cost of living.  Congress also decides what the percentage of increase is.  How convenient for Congress that it automatically makes more money every single year regardless of their performance or what bills they may have signed that reduced the salaries and benefits of the employees of the corporation that told them to sign the bill.

Then something very odd happened during George H.W. Bush’s presidency in 1989.  A bill entitled The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 was passed.  Text similar to what the Anti-Corruption Act proposes can be found in Titles I through IV.  There are many transparency initiatives outlined for reporting campaign and charity funds, and some streamlining of the bureaucratic process.  However, in typical Congressional fashion, this bill is massive and has many single sentence provisions that have grave implications, especially in Title V.  Subtitled “Other Ethics Reforms.”  Allow me to outline some of the disturbing highlights:

  • Suspends for 1 year the provisions of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act governing the conduct of certain individuals involved in procurement-related activities
  • Prohibits provisions concerning acts affecting a personal financial interest from applying in the case of a special Government employee serving on an advisory committee if the official responsible for the employee’s appointment is certified in writing that the need for the individual’s services outweighs the potential for a conflict of interest created by the financial interest involved
  • Repeals a provision restricting payment to certain US officers for furnishing war materials to the US.
  • Suspends for 1 year restrictions on retired military officers participating in sales to, or claims against, the Government

There are many more inclusions like this.  Some are bizarrely specific.  One provision amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to repeal provisions that exempt Members of Congress in office on January 8, 1980 from prohibition against converting excess campaign funds to personal use.  Basically, Bush rewrote the law to allow his cronies and himself to get away with tax evasion, fraud, and war profiteering.  As well as essentially giving a presidential pardon to Reagan’s Congress making the campaign funds they stole legal income.

Another peculiar thing happened during Bush’s presidency.  For the first time since Congress began earning salaries in 1856, Congress voted to give itself a 25% salary increase, along with its scheduled cost of living adjustment.  In 1990, a US Representative’s salary was $96,600.  In 1991, it jumped all the way to $125,100.  Nearly a $30,000 pay raise.  Compare that to a Representative’s salary in 1979, the year before Reagan took office, which was a measly $60,662.  Congress more than doubled its own salary in just over a decade.  It must be nice to determine your own salary.

With a system this deeply flawed it is easy to be dismissive of the potential of something like the Anti-Corruption Act.  However, I grew up believing in the concept of pro-active, citizen-sponsored government.  I grew up believing that great men and women could instigate change.  I grew up believing in the power of integrity, honesty, and compassion to render greed, corruption, and war as nothing more than antiquated concepts of a species that has evolved beyond them.  I grew up believing I had a voice.

I have grown up now.  It is obvious that something is crippling the planet’s ability to move forward.  We have been spinning the wheels of history in the same muddy patterns over and over again for centuries.  Corruption is the nexus of the planet’s problems.  Moreover, once a system of any kind has been corrupted it is altered forever.  Until we begin to address this corruption with an unwavering and passionate dedication we will get nowhere.  Liberty and Justice are not empty words meant to be tossed around during campaigns and televised debates.  They are not concepts that apply to one specific nationalist ideology.  They are fundamental aspects of Humanity.  When a person is deprived of Liberty and Justice that person is denied the full extent of their humanity.  In a world divided by borders where 65 countries are at war, then, humanity cannot be attained for most.

We cannot prevent history but we can engineer the future.  The Anti-Corruption Act is an important step in the direction of a better future.  It is not a magic spell that will cure the country from all past transgressions.  It is a starting point.  It transcends political parties.  It is singular in purpose.  It is gaining momentum.  It is our responsibility to be diligent in making sure it is not misappropriated.  It is our responsibility to care enough to keep its momentum moving in the right direction.  It is time that Honesty, Humanity, Legality and Morality became synonymous with each other. As Martin Luther King once said, “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”