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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 1: Diagnosing Greed in Politics

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Reporter

 

“One who is greedy stirs up strife . . .”

Solomon

 

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“The World is One Big Whorehouse”

Greed in politics. Everyone knows it’s there. A reporter’s favorite hobby is exposing a politician’s hypocritical greed. Yet, tracing the ways of greed in politics is like tracking a snake in a boulder field. Its trail is elusive, and the more you hunt it, the more it seems to hunts you. In fact, greed, like lust, seeks to daily corrupt all of our motives and actions.

The Apostle Paul zoned-in on the severity of greed, when he said that those whose lives are marked by it cannot “inherit the Kingdom of God.”  John Owen, that political firebrand of the English Parliament explained that, “[t]here is nothing that the Scripture doth more severely condemn, nor denounce more inevitable punishment unto” than greed.

When the wild man of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, spoke on greed, he held no punches: “The world is one big whorehouse, completely submerged in greed,” where the “big thieves hang the little thieves.” Jesus himself reserved his harshest words for the political rulers of his day, the Pharisees, who loved to look polished on the outside, yet “inside [were] full of greed and wickedness.”

Diagnosing or identifying greed-in-action is a daunting task. “Greed nowadays has come to be viewed as talented, smart, careful stewardship,” and this has led as well to “sin in general [being] dressed up to look like virtue and not vice.”

David Mathis, from Desiring God ministries, defines greed as “our inordinate desire, our excessive love, for wealth and possessions, for money and the things money can buy — and even for self-esteem, security, status, and power.”

While the accumulation or possession of material wealth, power, and prestige are never condemned in Scripture, what is condemned is obsession with them, and willingness to violate the rights of others to get more.  Rev. Jeph Guinan of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church explains that, “greed is never satisfied and always afraid.  The one thing the person with lots of money and power wants is more money and power. And, the one thing the person with lots of money and power is afraid of is, losing their money and power. They will do anything to anyone to avoid such loss. Those in power will manipulate the system to any end in order to maintain AND GROW their power and financial status.”

 

Greed in Politics is No Surprise

It comes as no surprise then, that greed is present in politics. Because greed, in varying degrees, is present in every person’s heart, and must there be personally combatted, the most difficult question of government is thus how to restrain greed in politics. To this end, the founders of our peculiar American government proposed a Constitution that, if adhered to, would present the most effective vehicle, conceived by man, to restrain greed in politics.

George Washington, skeptical that the Constitution could do just that, restrain greed in politics, lamented that if the American people “would not do what the Constitution called on them to do, the government would be at an end, and must then assume another form.” What would lead a political leader to fail to do what the Constitution called on them to do? What would lead them to violate the bounds of the Constitution, set in party by the 10th Amendment, to gain more power, money, or prestige?

In short, the answers is greed.

 

Four Principles of Greed Politics

In the 1840’s U.S. Senator Calhoun observed realities in government that are still true today:

“I have no doubt from what I daily see that our whole system is rapidly becoming a mere money-making concern to those who have the control of it.” And that “every feeling of patriotism is rapidly sinking into a universal spirit of [greed].”

Calhoun went on to observe that both parties are fundamentally at odds, not over social issues of justice, mercy, and equity, but over control of the government’s tax revenue:

“The Federal Government is no longer under the control of the people, but of a combination of active politicians who are banded together under the name of Democrats or Whigs. And whose exclusive object is to obtain the control of the honors and emoluments of the government. They have the control of the almost entire press of the country and constitute of vast majority of Congress and of all the functionaries of the Federal Government. With them a regard for principle or this or that line of policy is a mere pretext. They’re perfectly indifferent to either and their whole effort is to make up on both sides such issues as they may think for the time the most popular, regardless of truth or consequences.”

Let’s pause to highlight several of Calhoun’s observations. As far back as 1845, one of America’s greatest political minds[1] observed four principles of greed in politics that are still true today:

  • Interests of greed, “business interests,” have hijacked the whole political system;
  • The labels of the two dominant parties (Democrat and Republican, today) are really just manipulative mantles worn by this band of “active politicians” who are voraciously seeking benefit and control of the tax revenue;
  • This cohort of greedy “active politicians” are so powerful as to control most of the Government and the media; and
  • Most importantly, this cohort of greedy snakes manipulates the populous with social issues, in order to gain favor and stay in power.

These four observations of greed in politics are just as true today as they were in 1845.

 

“The Most Dangerous Power Known To Man”

Rep. David Crocket observed in the 1830’s that “the power of collecting and distributing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power known to man.”  Crocket was notable in resisting the urge of the Federal Government to dispense with tax revenue in a manner that surpassed those powers delegated to them by the States – no matter how virtuous the cause may present.

The allure of controlling ill-gotten tax revenue of government was exponentially magnified with the facade-passing of the 16th Amendment in 1913 (not to mention its surreptitious implementation) and the shadowy Federal Reserve the same year.  1913 was the culmination of four generations of work by the Greed Party; 1913 was the year that these “active politicians” could avail themselves of virtually unlimited money and power from the “whole system,” driving it deeper into a “mere money-making concern.”

 

The Puppet Show

This essay began with a quote from an ancient Middle-Eastern ruler, Solomon, “A greedy man stirs up strife.” What Calhoun and others have observed is that the conflict between the two-party system, the Republicans and the Democrats, is a farce – a puppet show. The Greed Party “stirs up strife,” in order to gain the advantage of the tax revenue. 

Certainly there are a few people in positions of power within the Republican Party who genuinely care about “x, y, z” issue; and certainly there are a few people in power within the Democratic Party who genuinely care about “a, b, c” issue.  However, the far more powerful force behind both parties is the same: the Greed Party.  The Greed Party pulls the social-issue strings of both parties like a puppet master.

The great trap of the Greed Party is that whatever noble goal is attained by a Republican politician or a Democratic politician, only serves to fuel the Greed Party’s cupidity. Many politicos have theorized that the Republican Party’s “Conservative” brand – including the pro-life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty platform – was created by the Greed Party in order to garner enough votes to gain control of the tax revenue. The same criticism can be levied against the Democratic Party’s “Progressive” brand – including criminal justice reform, drug-policy reform, and civil rights initiatives.

What must emerge is a solution, not within the system, but without the system.  A third party must emerge whose strings are not pulled by the Greed Party. A third party must emerge whose fight for political good is not directed at opposition to the Republicans or to the Democrats, but rather directly at the serpentine Greed Party itself.

 

For the Noble of Heart in Politics

Scottish preacher, John Knox, observed that “You are working against your king just as much if you allow him to be a tyrant as if you oppose him.” For the noble of heart in politics, for those not ensnared in the trappings of the Greed Party, for those to whom it is not too late, I challenge you to consider this – Do you want you blood, sweat, and tears to be played like a puppet master for the fulfillment of the Greed Party’s own selfish ambitions?  Is your work within the two-party system allowing your government to continue to be a tyrant?

The maxim that “A greedy man stirs up strife” is only half the proverb. The second half presents the stark contrast for us to consider today, “the one who trusts in Jehovah will be enriched.”  True riches do not come from creating strife and profiting from it. True riches come from the peace of apply Jehovah’s wisdom.

 

In Parts II and III we plan to examples of greed in Alabama politics, and potential solutions.

[1] I say this with complete repudiation of his grotesque promotion of the American slave trade.  I lament that he did not equally spend his intellect on eradication of this enterprise. There are no more heroes, but Christ. To quote any man, is to risk “guilt by association.” I hope the reader will be generation with that judgment here.

 

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Opinion | Alabama solicitor Brasher not fit to be a federal judge

Josh Moon

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One of the dumbest legal conversations I ever had with anyone in Alabama state government was with someone who is currently on the verge of landing a lifetime federal judgeship — one of the most coveted and important positions in the U.S. justice system.

The conversation, like most of my legal conversations, involved gambling. Two gambling proposals had been put forth by the Alabama Legislature, and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office had just issued a statement supporting one over the other. The statement was confusing and incorrect in its assessment of the applicable laws — specifically, the AG’s office had misinterpreted Indian gaming laws.

So, I called to ask about the statement and the mistakes.

On the other end of the phone was Alabama’s Solicitor General, Andrew Brasher — the same man the Trump administration has now nominated to serve as a federal judge in Alabama’s Middle District.

For the better part of 15 minutes, Brasher argued with me about the laws. I won’t get too deep into the weeds of it all, but the confusion on his part involved the requirements of states and tribes entering into Class III gaming compacts.

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Now, my legal expertise would typically fill a medicine cup. But inside that cup would be Alabama and tribal gaming laws. And I know those laws because some of the best legal minds in America have explained them to me during the course of writing numerous stories.

Brasher was wrong. But instead of admitting it, he challenged me to provide him the relevant statutes. I did. He was still wrong.

But instead of admitting the mistake and retracting the statement the AG’s office released, the response back was: “We believe it’s complicated.”

Quite the legal ruling.

To put that another way, the response was: We have a conclusion that we want to reach and we will twist the laws any way we have to in order to get there.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Andrew Brasher shouldn’t be anywhere near a federal bench.

Whether it’s defending bogus press statements or wasting taxpayer money on disgraced “expert” witnesses or utilizing junk science to push a political position, Brasher’s legal resume is chock full of examples of him choosing politics over law.

It’s so bad that on Friday the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee tasked with approving Brasher’s nomination urging it to oppose him. The lengthy letter cited numerous examples of Brasher submitting briefs or making arguments in court that were roundly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts.

Among other ludicrous arguments, Brasher has argued that … there was no racial gerrymandering in Alabama redistricting plan (the Supreme Court disagreed), demanding proof of citizenship on a voter registration card was legal (the Supreme Court disagreed), that only straight people should be allowed to adopt (the Supreme Court disagreed) and a fetus should granted an attorney.

There’s also this little nugget: During his confirmation hearing, Brasher refused to say that Brown v. Board of Ed. was correctly decided. Because, you know, who is he to say — a judge or something?

But probably the best summation of Brasher’s politically-driven career as an ideological prosecutor in Alabama came during a federal trial over Alabama’s restrictive laws on abortion clinics — laws that would have certainly forced most or all of the clinics to close. Unable to locate credible witnesses — medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. — who would speak on the state’s side, Brasher and the AG’s office trotted out the paid stooges.

Four “experts” were paid more than $300,000 to testify on the state’s behalf. They were so bad that the judge in the case all but openly mocked them, and things became so bad that at one point, while questioning his witnesses, Brasher began to bang his own head on the wooden lectern.

That’s what happens when you choose politics over law in the courtroom. The system isn’t built to handle it. Things go awry. Justice falters.

And that’s what you risk by approving Brasher.

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Opinion | The BCA mess isn’t difficult to unravel

Josh Moon

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It’s been a rough week for the Business Council of Alabama.

The top lobbyist group in the state has been decimated by big-name defections. It started with Alabama Power and PowerSouth. Then Regions Bank. Then Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. And now Protective Life Insurance. And there are strong rumors that Drummond Coal and Thompson Caterpillar are soon to follow.

All of those companies mentioned have expressed concerns — either while announcing their departure or while threatening to leave — over BCA CEO Bill Canary.

They felt Canary wasn’t getting the job done. They wanted him out. They wanted him out now.

The BCA board, led by Perry Hand, tried to block that. For reasons that are both dumb and seemingly personally beneficial to Hand and his company, Volkert Construction.

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And now there is debate in political circles over who’s right, who’s wrong and what it all means.

On the first two, there should be no debate. And anyone who is honest and who has spent an hour around the State House over the last two years knows it.

Alabama Power and these other major companies didn’t randomly decide one day that they didn’t like Canary’s suits and wanted him fired. They took a look at the scoreboard. And it clearly showed that Canary was getting killed.

And by that, I mean he had lost his influence in the State House. Most of it he squandered away by using too much stick and not enough carrot when dealing with lawmakers. He tried to bully his way around and such tactics quickly wear thin among grown people.

The companies contributing dues to the BCA do so for one purpose: for that organization to promote their best interest and help push business-friendly ideas in the state Legislature.

That’s the primary benefit of the BCA’s existence.

If the guy the BCA is paying big dollars to push that agenda is so disliked that state lawmakers are voting against BCA-backed legislation just to spite him, that’s what we call a gots-to-go situation.

That was 100-percent taking place with Canary in the State House.

Two years ago, the BCA was shut out on its top-priority bills. This past session, they got one — an unpopular weakening of state ethics laws that likely cost several lawmakers their seats — and lost their biggest.

Privately, Republican lawmakers, who once happily strolled into the building and voted for anything BCA sponsored, were so disenchanted with Canary and BCA that they told me they would vote against anything the organization backed. They were tired of being threatened, they said. And they were tired of Canary telling them what to do instead of working with them.

If you’re Alabama Power or Regions Bank or BCBS, and you’re dumping six figures annually into this association in order to promote your interests at the State House, you can’t have that.

And it’s that simple.

What’s hilarious to me is that there’s now this narrative being pushed on paid political blogs and in paid-for newspaper columns that somehow APCO and these other defecting businesses were too liberal and didn’t share the conservative, pro-business goals of Hand and the BCA.

Lord have mercy. I think I know liberal when I see it. And trust me, APCO, Regions and BCBS ain’t it.

Even if they pushed former Democratic House Speaker Seth Hammett to be the new BCA CEO. That decision, too, boiled down to simple business.

Hammett is the anti-Canary. He’s nice, well respected, well liked and doesn’t even own a stick. Basically, exactly the sort of change the organization needed.

But that’s a moot point now, I suppose. What’s left to consider is where things go from here, and it seems that other BCA defections offer some indication of the future plans.

In addition to top companies, board member Mike Kemp and legal counsel Fournier “Boots” Gale also resigned from BCA this week. Kemp was the chairperson of BCA’s political action committee, PROGRESSPAC.

If the departing companies intended to start a new lobbying group, or join an existing one, those specific members would be fairly important.

Whether that’s the case or not, certainly no one believes that APCO, Regions and BCBS are going to stop pushing their legislative agendas and backing bills that aid their companies and the state’s business climate.

Because just like with the push to remove Canary, the bottom line for them is money.

 

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Opinion | The most important election ever

Joey Kennedy

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Is this the country we want to be? Is this the state we love.

I truly wonder.

We always say there is never an election more important than the one at hand. It’s become a cliché.

But, folks, there’s never been a more important election than the mid-term election this  November. It may be cliché, but it’s absolutely true.

If you are eligible to vote but not registered, get registered now. Don’t keep putting it off.

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In the recent Republican and Democratic primaries in Alabama, only 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

That means 74 percent of registered voters stayed at home. Even that isn’t a true reflection of voter apathy in Alabama. Many more people in Alabama are eligible to vote, but simply don’t bother to register. Considering eligible voters, Alabama’s turnout is likely well below 25 percent.

Imagine fewer than 25 percent of eligible voters deciding who is going to head their parties’ tickets come November. In the few primary runoffs in July, the turnout likely will be single digits.

There’s no more crucial time for eligible voters to cast their ballots than this year.

Just look at the ongoing horror on our nation’s borders with Mexico. President Trump signed an executive order this week to prevent immigrant families from being split apart, but there’s debate over whether that means a whole lot. Trump only signed the order after tear-inducing descriptions and photos showed the terrible conditions that immigrant children were being housed in. So-called “tender age shelters,” little more than internment camps or prisons for toddlers and babies, was the last straw. Even tough-man Donald Trump couldn’t stand the backlash, so after saying he didn’t have the authority to keep families from being separated, he then signed an executive order ending his own policy of separating families.

Trump folded completely, but he folded on a terrible crisis of his own making.

Trump’s disgusting immigration decisions aren’t his only horrible policies. The assault on health insurance coverage, trade wars with our closest allies, destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency – the list goes on and on.

And on.

The bigger picture, though, is that voters allowed this to happen. More precisely, eligible voters who didn’t bother to register or vote allowed this to happen.

That’s why the cliché is true: There’s never been a more important election than this November’s midterms.

We’re not voting on a president, true, but we are selecting U.S. House members. Sure, Alabama polls overwhelmingly in support of Trump, but that’s not unusual in a state where voters so often go against their own interests.

Let’s not do that this time.

There are many more Democrats than usual running for office in Alabama this year. Get to know them. Learn what they stand for.

There are good Republicans, too, especially in local races.

On the statewide level, not so much, though, especially when compared to their Democratic Party opponents.

At the top, Tuscaloosa Mayor and Democrat Walt Maddox is eminently more qualified than Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who supported a child molester for the U.S. Senate simply because he was a Republican, and who has refused to debate her opponents.

Go down the list. Remember that the party in charge in Alabama (and in Congress) is a party that wants to keep voter turnout as low as possible. It’s the only way they stay in control.

But to vote, you must be registered. And if you’re registered, you must travel to a polling place to cast your ballot.

Never, ever vote straight ticket. Vote a smart ticket.

Especially this year.

Because there’s never been a more important election.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 1: Diagnosing Greed in Politics

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 8 min
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