Gordon Gekko wasn't a real person when he said, "Greed is good" in the 1987 movie Wall Street, but his words sounded so real that they entered the language immediately. At the present state of affairs in Congress, someone needs to stand up and say, "Corruption is good." It would legitimize an ethos that has been breeding for a long time. Their reluctance to seriously reform the lobbying system indicates how comfortable our lawmakers have become with influence peddling, which used to be a crime and is now an institution.
Corruption is in the eyes of the beholder, and it appears that few if any congressmen and senators see the depth of the problem. In the public's eyes, Congress is at a low ebb of trust, and although Democrats gleefully hope that the Abramoff scandal will stick to the Republicans, a recent poll shows that 71% of Americans see no difference between the two parties. They're right, because the slide into the current malaise affected every politician, as ethics became degraded step by step.
--Democracy was crippled when it became possible for only rich white males to raise the funds necessary to run for Congress. Few women or minority members could compete. No ordinary middle-class citizen had a chance. The fact that going to Congress is bought and paid for has driven the best, most idealistic people from the field.
--The price of running a campaign cemented the careers of incumbents, who have more than an 80% chance of re-election.
--The pressure of raising money became constant, allowing for the rise of Tom DeLay and his philosophy that re-election was the one and only issue worth thinking about.
--Every congressman and senator thus became permanently hitched to lobbyists and campaign donors. This further eroded democracy as corporate and military interest groups found it easy to buy the legislation -- or even write it themselves -- that supposedly controlled their affairs.
--Once the public became a minority player in the fund-raising game, it could be ignored or paid off with pork-barrel handouts and tax cuts. The real business of government became the business of a tight community of incumbents, lobbyists, and staff members who float freely between the two.
By now, the system is so tight as to be beyond anything but radical reform. "Corruption is good" because re-election is good. The logic is flawless, but deeply immoral. The whole thing could be changed, but it would take a citizens' rebellion, since true reform would be suicide for current politicians. One can only wonder how much deeper into corruption the system has to sink before the millions of people inadequately represented by Congress stand up for their rights.