I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

And this is different how?

The news this week has been about the stunning corruption of Illinois governer Blagojevich. I admit, when I first heard the quotes from Patrick Fitzgerald, it was pretty jawdropping that he'd been so open about the financial advantages of the appointment. But, my second, more cynical reaction is, how is this different from politics as usual throughout government? How many congressmen, senators, and members of the executive branch leave office to take positions on the boards of corporations who at one time they held some power over? Or, if not them, their spouses? When former presidents leave and go on tours to give motivational speeches for a million bucks a pop, do you think it's really their tremendous oratory skills that earn them those fees? How many ambassadors and department heads have no skills directly related to their current positions, but did show skills as a fund raiser or campaign organizer? What was it on Micheal Brown's resume that got him top spot at FEMA?

We have laws that discourage nakedly handing politicians money on the front end, but once they are out of office and out of the spotlight the money always seems to flow their way. We, the public, just shrug it off. What can we do? It's not like we can vote them out of office once they are out of office. Prosecutors aren't going to chase them. It's not illegal, after all, for an ex-politician to take one of these high paid jobs. One reason it's not illegal is because the politicians have carefully crafted the laws to make sure it's not illegal.

I hate to be so negative. This is the point of the essay where I'm supposed to say, "The situation is rotten, but here's what we, the public, can do!" But, honestly, I don't have a clue how we get our way free of this stuff. Any legislation that politicians write to reform the system is going to be designed to create a new system of graft.

For those of you who'd like some sliver of hope, I'll reach into resources as a science fiction author and offer you this: There is always hope of an alien invasion. Yes, they may raze our cities and devour our children, but perhaps they'll be honest about it.


Gray Rinehart said...

Nice, James. I especially like the SF&F angle at the end.

If I remember correctly, military personnel of sufficient rank had rules that forbade them from going to work for contractors whose work they had overseen until some time had elapsed. That didn't stop folks from becoming "Beltway Bandits" in other companies.

As for really high-ranking folks moving on to the corporate world, I don't have a good answer. Not today, anyway.

James Maxey said...

Gray, I used to be in favor of term limits, but this scandal has actually changed my mind. It's only natural that someone who's about to lose their job will spend time thinking about what their next job will be and what their financial future holds. In some ways, it's the politicians who plan to hold their seats until they die who have fewer reasons to negotiate these backroom deals that increase their future wealth. Of course, these "lifers" eventually get corrupted by their own sense of self-importance and invincibility, like Ted Stephens in Alaska.

If there are any up and coming journalism school students reading this blog, an interesting project might be to choose a recent election year--say 2000--and follow the fates of all sitting elected officials who left seats that year. It would be a big, time consuming project, but it might reveal whether this sort of back-end bribery is as prevelent as I think it is, or if it just seems like a problem due to a few high profile cases that get reported.