Saturday, May 14, 2005

Where we can find real corruption

I always get quite irritated listening to Stephen Harper labelling the Martin government as corrupt (it sounds very strategic, like the product of a focus group).

It is not just that I don't personally think Martin and company are corrupt and that the evidence from Gomery suggests that the circle of the ethically-challenged was quite circumscribed. What is quite galling is that there is real and systematic corruption about, but one has to look south of the border to find it, among Harper's ideological soulmates in Washington.

There is much written about this. One of the latest is this article in the New Republic by Jon Chait (subscription required), Patronage Bush Style, Wages of Sin. Here is an excerpt about what he labels as fundamentally corrupt big government conservatism:

Begin with the Medicare bill, Bush's largest social spending initiative by far. It's true that Bush probably embraced the notion of adding prescription-drug coverage because opposition had grown untenable. But the distinctive characteristic of Bush's bill is its staggering array of handouts to private interests. The goodies included a $71 billion subsidy for corporate health care plans, $46 billion for Medicare HMOs, $25 billion for hospital chains, and more than $100 billion for pharmaceutical companies, not including a lucrative provision forbidding the federal government from negotiating lower drug prices. Just about all of Bush's big-government conservative agenda works the same way. Whereas Clinton signed a law phasing out federal crop payments, Bush lavished $180 billion in subsidies for agribusiness. ...

Bush's expansion of government is not limited to higher spending. At various points, he has imposed protective trade barriers on imports of textiles, steel, lumber, shrimp, and other goods. And he has been particularly shameless in creating narrowly targeted tax breaks of the sort that increase, rather than diminish, Washington's role in the economy. Last fall, Bush signed a little-noticed corporate tax bill that, rather than cut rates across the board, showered benefits on bow-and-arrow manufacturers, foreign dog-race gamblers, ceiling-fan importers, and other dubious beneficiaries whose only claim to preferential treatment lay in their ability to lobby for it.

Benefits for "bow and arrow manufacturers" and "foreign dog-race gamblers"? Forbidding government from negotiating lower drug prices? And we think corruption resides in Ottawa?

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