04/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Implicit Bribe of Government Officials

Government regulators are like the referees in any sports game. They are supposed to make sure there is fair competition and everyone plays by the rules. Without refs you can't really have a fair game, you would pretty much have anarchy.

So, for example, if Toyota is making cars that speed out of control until they crash, you would need a government regulator or ref to make sure that doesn't happen. We also need refs to make sure that the food we eat is safe and the drugs we take don't kill us.

Everybody gets this. Except Republicans of course, who think we should remove all the refs through deregulation. They call that the free market. How would free market football work without any refs? Would anyone survive the game?

Well, capitalism is about the same. It's great if you play within the rules but if you don't have any regulators watching over corporate interests they will do anything and everything to make a buck. And if someone gets hurt in the meanwhile, that's a sad day for them.

Now, it's bad enough when Republicans argue for near anarchy as they keep asking us to pull all the refs. But what's worse is what happens to the refs when they retire. They all get paid by the same exact companies they were supposed to regulate when they were in the government.

That's like letting NBA refs get hired by Vegas casinos as soon as they retire. What incentive do you think they will have while they're refereeing? That's right, do whatever they can to please the casinos that bet on the games. So that when they retire they'll get paid a much bigger salary.

Except we have let almost everyone in our government get bought by the casinos. The people at the Food and Drug administration get hired by the food and drug industries they were supposed to regulate. How much incentive do you have to find mad cow disease in the livestock of a company who might hire you soon? How about if you were regulating Toyota but thought you'd get hired by Toyota in a couple of years if you just looked the other way? Well, that is almost exactly what happened.

But it's not just our regulators. Everybody in the government is bought. Senators and congressmen can't wait to quit and cash in on lobbyist money. Sometimes they'll put together a great package for an industry while they're in Congress and then retire and take several million dollars from that same industry, just like Billy Tauzin did.

But it's not just our representatives; it's also their entire staff. Everyone gets an implicit bribe -- as long as they play ball. Go along to get along. Lobbyist firms are littered with former chiefs of staff in Congress. But they have to make sure they're nice to the lobbyists and corporate interests while they're in office. Otherwise, you don't get to retire comfortably.

But it's not just Congress either. It's also the military. And this is where it gets really scary. The top brass know they have an excellent job coming to them from the defense industry if they just feed the beast while they're in charge. Now what do you think your chances of getting hired by a defense contractor is if you kill a big procurement project they had their eyes set on? My guess is not very high. There goes your retirement plans.

The whole government is running with this giant implied bribe hanging over their head. If they screw up and cross the lobbyists, then they can kiss the big bucks goodbye. But if they do as they are told, everybody gets rich. Oh right, except us.

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