By Danny Tyree
Despite all the caterwauling you hear about nepotism, rigged elections, waivers, loopholes, crony capitalism, foxes guarding henhouses, gerrymandered legislative districts, incompetent court-appointed attorneys, misleading negative campaign ads and government surveillance programs, we Americans are an alarmingly contented bunch.
The anti-corruption nonprofit Transparency International has surveyed citizens in 107 countries and released its 2013 Global Corruption Barometer. The 24/7 Wall Street organization has used that information to determine the nations with the highest percentage of respondents who claim corruption is a very serious problem in their own nation.
Liberia and Mongolia rose (sank?) to the occasion, but the mighty United States of America couldn’t even make the top nine!
The U.S. has already lost bragging rights as the most obese developed nation in the world. Must we also lag behind in the corruption race? How did it come to this?
One commentator (awash in jingoism and naivete) opined that the U.S. really IS better than the other countries, because of reliable laws and institutions that have “leveled the playing fields.” Um, yes. He forgot to mention that, in that leveling process, someone’s brother-in-law got a no-bid contract and paid underage illegal immigrants under the table to do the bulldozer work!!!!!
A more reasonable (albeit unfair) explanation is that many foreigners have fewer distractions and more time to focus on corruption. (“Hmm…watch the neighbor’s yak go through shedding season again or report the local magistrate for waterboarding my only child. Decisions, decisions…”)
Yes, Americans may gripe and moan, but our political/cultural leaders have graciously given us a nice “bread and circuses” approach to rearranging our priorities so that, when push comes to shove, we rarely put our discontentment into action. (“When Honey Boo Boo throws a tantrum about arcane accounting rules that encourage off-the-books partnerships for hiding liabilities, then, by golly, I’ll be the first in line to stage a coup!”)
Perhaps the 21st century has made us too mellow. Nonjudgmental Americans insist, “No, sweetheart deals don’t bother me — as long as the sweethearts can be the same sex.”
Most importantly, Americans have become too INSULATED from devious doings. The vast majority of the mischief takes place in Washington lobbyist dinners or smoke-filled statehouse rooms. By and large, we just aren’t directly exposed to the stereotypical two-bit shakedown artists who extort bribes in other countries. (“Come for the spring festival, stay for the summer festival…or the Travelocity gnome gets it!!”)
So if we’re going to make more of a splash in the next Global Corruption Barometer, we need to encourage American officials to take a more visible “in your face” approach.
We need police forensics experts offering to draw a more flattering chalk outline of your deceased love one for a nominal fee, and DMV employees whispering, “For an extra 20 you can get the GLAMOR PHOTO on your driver’s license…”
How about little countertop signs that announce, “Take a penny, leave a penny…either way, you’re actually automatically casting a vote for the political party that always runs this burg. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…”?
C’mon, America, let’s give a really blistering appraisal of the U.S. on the next survey.
Unless you’d rather *ahem* pool your resources so the Transparency International folks find a little something extra in their pay envelopes…
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.
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