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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
10 Feb 2016
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Rich People Versus Politicians


Sometimes I wish there were a humane way to get rid of the rich. Without the rich for whipping boys, we might be able to concentrate on what's best for the 99 and a half percent of the rest of us.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, with about $60 billion in assets each, are America's richest men. With all that money, what can they force us to do? Can they take our house to make room so that another person can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run retirement Ponzi scheme called Social Security? Can Buffett and Gates force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Unless they are granted power by politicians, rich people have little power to force us to do anything.

A GS-9, or a lowly municipal clerk, has far more life-and-death power over us. It's they to whom we must turn to for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and a myriad of other activities. It's government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce and make our lives miserable. Coercive power goes a long way toward explaining political corruption.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's hawking of Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat; Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel's alleged tax writing favors; former Rep. William Jefferson's business bribes; and the Jack Abramoff scandal are mere pimples on the government corruption landscape. We can think of these and similar acts as jailable illegal corruption. They pale in comparison to what's for all practical purposes the same thing, but simply legal corruption.

For example, according to the Miami Herald, by March 2008, the powerful Florida Fanjul sugar family had given over $300,000 to politicians and political committees. They didn't fork over all that money to help politicians to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Like businessmen who approach Charlie Rangel, Rod Blagojevich and William Jefferson, they give politicians money because they want a favor in return — namely import restrictions on sugar so they can charge Americans higher prices.

In the case of the Fanjuls, and thousands of others buying favors, they are engaged in legal corruption.

Legalized corruption is widespread and that's the job of 35,000 Washington, D.C., lobbyists earning millions upon millions of dollars. They represent America's big and small corporations, big and small labor unions and even foreign corporations and unions. They are not spending billions of dollars in political contributions to encourage and assist the White House and Congress to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. They are spending that money in the expectations of favors that will be bestowed upon them at the expense of some other American or group of Americans.

This power helps explain, for example, why a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, not to mention its chairmanship, is so highly coveted. For the right price, a tax loophole, saving a company tens of millions of dollars, can be inserted into tax law, a la the Charlie Rangel scandal. At state levels, governors can award public works contracts to a generous constituent. At the local levels mayors can confer favors such as providing subsidies for sports stadia and convention centers. When politicians can give favors, they will find buyers.

The McCain-Feingold law was to get "money out of politics" but more money was spent in the 2008 election cycle than ever. The only way to reduce corruption and money in Washington is to reduce the power politicians have over our lives. James Madison was right when he suggested, "All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." Thomas Jefferson warned, "The greatest calamity which could befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers." That's what today's Americans have given Washington — unlimited powers.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



3 Comments | Post Comment
Water. You ARE a handsome devil. Mrs. Williams is a lucky woman. As far as the rest of us go, I truly believe that the pendulem has swung, and that this Country is on it's last legs. Everybody always said, that we would fall from within. That's what ALL great nations do. Nobody LEARNS fros the misstakes of those who came before us. We have 535 people, in this country, that are KILLING it. WHY won't they accept TERM LIMITS? The President has them. Governors and Mayors have them. And how do these people get SO RICH, on such a small salary? See what THEY have done to our ECONOMY. THEY DID IT! They've brought us to the BRINK, and now their 'FIX' is gonna shove us over the cliff.
When is it REVOLUTION time? The Declaration of Independence says that it is OUR DUTY, to OPPOSE the Government, when they no longer SERVE THE PEOPLE. Are we there yet?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Timothy L. Pennell
Wed Jan 7, 2009 7:00 AM
I'd like to say as usual Williams' articles are great & this one is no different. I'd like to point out that not all the 35k lobbists in D.C. are engaging in nefarious adventures. Certainly, the greater portion are definitely, agreeing w/ Williams, that it is an unlawful crime to unduly influence this branch of government for anything outsise the interests of the people. I must say that those organizations and individuals who are advising the Congress on furthering rights to the people and against corporate power and unchecked influence and control over the people is a rightful and necessary action to save individual rights from the constant and persistent erosion of those rights.
I must agree w/ the comments of Timothy Pennell, he is saying, I believe, that the revolution is overdue by more than a 100 yrs.
Plz see the website for what is happening as described by Williams:
Mahalo, thank you, for reading both the article and the comments.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Roy Dahlin
Wed Jan 7, 2009 12:27 PM
Mr. Williams, I believe that you have missed some items in your article. There was a thing called Term Limit that had been passed several years ago that was to eliminate the good old boys way of doing things. Well, to me this has also failed. If you take a group of people who are trained, lawyers, at circumventing any written word and making it say either nothing, or just whatever they want it to say you need go no further than Washington.
Like a barrel full of bad apples Washington is truly rotten to the core. To me there is only one way to straighten out Washington, or any other government agency either state or local. That would be to go out and throw all of them out and to start over. The new ones that go there are all ready beholding to their parties way of doing things. After all, does anyone go to Washington or anywhere else with out the helping hand of a political party and it's beliefs? If a person does not follow a parties beliefs that person will never get the help of any party and there fore not get their backing and support, and not getting elected.
All of the back door politics, dirty deeds, underhanded dealings are a result of groups entrenched in their ideals, and not necessarily the best interests of the people they were sent there to represent.
How else do you explain any group spending millions of dollars for a job that only pays a few hundred thousand a year? Power and nothing else but power to force your beliefs on the people either right or wrong. Geroge Orwells' book "Animal Farm" is alive and well in Washington.
There are many changes in Washington that need to be done, but this will never happen. Lobbyist, they should be outlawed.
Bills that are introduced should not be added on to. Any and all bills should go for an up or down vote on their own merit. How many possibly good bills have gone down in defeat because of other pork bellied bills have been added on to them.
Holding bills in committee should never happen. A 30 day discussion period should be the only waiting period before a bill gets to be voted on.
Just changing the guard every few years will not make Washington change. The leftover people will always make the apple barrel go bad no matter what good intentions were there to start with.
The parties need to be thrown out and something new needs to be started. The entire political system is corrupted and not much will ever change that short of getting them thrown out. Anyone that is in politics needs to be banned form ever getting into any office local, state, or federal. We need to start over with getting all of the bumbs thrown out.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mike Nuttall
Mon Jan 12, 2009 1:59 PM
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