Legislators profit despite conflict of interest 

A Few Good Men: Hey, here's an idea. Let's hold our elected leaders accountableLegis

Everything has a price, right? Being somewhat of an idealist, I'd hoped that things like integrity, honesty, loyalty, and commitment were not among them.

Watching the July 29 broadcast of the CBS news program 60 Minutes, I was reminded that such ideals are becoming more and more rare, if not extinct altogether.

The lead segment of the program focused on recently-passed federal legislation allowing pharmaceutical companies to ensure astronomical profits by selling drugs to federal agencies.

Alluding to corruption in getting the bill through, the evidence put forward in the segment was quite compelling. The lead sponsor of the bill, which other congressional members say was actually written by the pharmaceutical companies themselves, will soon go to work for those companies as a lobbyist.

Another aspect of the broadcast I thought demonstrated abject disregard for the American public was the allegation that legislators were coerced into supporting the legislation. According to congressional members interviewed by CBS, the conspirators threatened to work against the election of one member's son who is slated to seek election when the father retires

What struck me was that I never realized congressional offices were hereditary and what's this thing about retiring from public office as if it were some private sector job?

But no laws were broken despite the fact that American taxpayers are being defrauded out of billions of dollars, so the culprits who conspired will make millions instead of doing time in jail.

How did American politics degenerate into such blatant corruption? I guess it's true that evil abounds when good people remain silent.

Our system of government has become so corrupt and the American electorate so complacent we don't even see that there's a problem. We blindly elect people to office term after term, no matter how little they produce for us or how much they reward themselves.

I'm reminded of one local state legislator whose political career seems almost corrupt.

After more than 20 years serving as a member of the House of Representatives, the fat cat was elected to the senate. The guy represented one of the state's poorest predominantly black rural districts. This guy did next to nothing for his constituents.

The one high school in his district was ranked among the state's lowest when he went into office and remains among the state's lowest ranked schools to this day. Many residents of the district still don't have public water and sewer and during the guy's tenure one community of constituents' well water supply was contaminated with fecal matter.

Still the guy was elected to office term after term and after many years serving as a good 'House' negro, who talked loud but said nothing, he was gerrymandered into the senate.

A few years ago the legislator 'retired' from public office to a well-paid appointed position as a commissioner for a state agency.

I'm told that's a common perk for legislators who faithfully tow the line while in office. They get appointments to paid positions on state boards and commissions or to judgeships. Some later become lobbyists culling favors from their former colleagues.

Professional politicians have been pimping the public like macdaddies pimping street whores — slapping us around and taking our money, but we keep expecting them to protect us. And we wonder why our state ranks almost last in just about everything that measures the progress of a community.

What South Carolina and America needs are a few good men and a voting public with the courage to take back its government.

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