Pigs at the Public Trough

Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard takes a fascinating look at the previously behind-the-scenes activities of a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. in an article entitled “A Lobbyist’s Progress: Jack Abramoff and the end of the Republican Revolution.”
Here is how the story begins:

In honor of the tenth anniversary of the fabled Republican Revolution–for precisely a decade has flown by since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives…let us pause…to ponder the story of Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon…
Abramoff was until recently a registered lobbyist, and Scanlon offers himself as a public affairs specialist, but more precisely they are what Republicans in Washington used to call “Beltway Bandits,” profiteers who manipulate the power of big government on behalf of well-heeled people who pay them tons of money to do so. Sometime around 1995, Republicans in Washington stopped using the term “Beltway Bandits”…

After describing how tens of millions of dollars flowed to various entities affiliated with both men, will there be any real consequences?

A funny thing happens when you talk to lobbyists, especially those with Indian casino clients, about the Senate investigation of Abramoff and Scanlon. None of them will talk for the record, of course, but they are surprisingly unanimous that all this unpleasantness will soon blow over.

Ferguson then addresses the deeper and more troubling issue underlying the status quo:

Stripped of its peculiar grossness, Abramoff’s Indian story really is just another story of business as usual in the world of Washington lobbying…That closed, parasitic culture of convenience –with its revolving doors, front groups, pay-offs, expense-account comfort, and ideological cover stories — is as essential to the way Republican Washington works, then years after the Revolution, as ever it was to Democratic Washington…
I came across another quote…from a profile of Abramoff in the National Journal in 1995, soon after Abramoff had announced he would become a lobbyist, back when the Revolution was still young.
“What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoff’s,” Norquist said. “Then this becomes a different town.”
It was a bold statement, typical for the time, but even then it raised a question we now know the answer to: Would Republicans change Washington, or would it be the other way around?

I remember well that election night in November 1994 when it seemed real change might occur. Unfortunately, we have – yet again – relearned the lesson from the words of Lord Acton who taught us how power corrupts, regardless of party affiliation.
Big government means there are plenty of spoils to divide among the many powerful pigs at the public trough.
The next time your Senator or Congressman tries to impress you with the spoils he or she is bringing home to your district, take a step back and remember that the true price you are paying for any suggested benefit must also include the pro-rata cost of feeding every other pig across America who eats from the public trough.
Most importantly, what is often forgotten is that the spoils they are so eager to divide up represent a meaningful portion of the incomes of American working families and retirees – who are usually unrepresented at the table when these spoils are given away.
We must never forget that all families pay quite a price for these giveaways: It means less of their own hard-earned incomes is available to be spent on their own tangible needs, on things such as food, clothing, medical care, education, etc.
And that is why big government means less freedom for American working families and retirees.

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Anchor Rising
19 years ago

More on the Misguided Incentives in the Public Sector

Previous postings have addressed the Misguided Incentives that are structurally present in the public sector and how this leads naturally to Pigs at the Public Trough. These observations make Lawrence Reed’s Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy an i…

18 years ago

Hello. I am new here. It is very interesting.

Anchor Rising
18 years ago

Pigs at the Public Trough, Revisited

Time Magazine has an unflattering story about lobbyist Jack Abramoff which builds on some of the points highlighted in this earlier posting: …The spreading scandal is a particular concern to Republicans in light of next year’s midterm elections. Abra…

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