Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Not normal: a President-elect for whom other nations are profit centers

His business empire is certainly far-flung, even if much of it consists of nothing more substantive than franchising his name. Think about how existing partners might leverage their connections to the U.S. president on their own home fronts -- and what potential partners might be willing to fork over for his nod of approval. Our guy is a crony capitalist's honeypot. They'll come running and he can rake in the take. Meanwhile, since he refuses to put his business in a blind trust, how will we ever know whether the decisions he makes with regard to foreign countries are meant to benefit us or his personal bottom line? Or, for that matter, which of his domestic decisions are influenced by his love for his bottom line?

He asserts, and many lawyers agree, there is nothing illegal about this, though there is a clause in the Constitution ("emoluments" -- Merriam Webster's the word of the moment) that might serve as some check -- if Congress decided it wanted to impeach him for accepting profits from selling the policy of the United States to foreigners. It's hard to see that boot-licking bunch even trying.

A Wall Street Journal article (paywall, sorry) outlines how presidents became exempt from the restraints on other officeholders under conflict of interest law. (Hint: this involved protecting slave owners.)

... the U.S. president and vice president aren’t subject to laws that apply to nearly all other federal officials.

The reason for that dates to the nation’s founding, said Norman Eisen, fellow at Brookings Institution and the Obama administration’s former ethics counsel. The “decision-making of the founding fathers was replete with what today we would call conflicts of interest,” he said, noting that early presidents made decisions on agriculture policy and slavery despite owning large plantations.

“Because the president of the United States is the single most consequential decision maker on the planet, Congress has decided his hands shouldn’t be tied on any issue because of conflicts of interest over any potential financial or personal gain,” Mr. Eisen said.

Matt Yglesias has explained how plunder by a political leader can become "systemic corruption" which is itself a form of governance.

To be a successful businessman in a systemically corrupt regime and to be a close supporter of the regime are one and the same thing.

Those who support the regime will receive favorable treatment from regulators, and those who oppose it will not. Because businesses do business with each other, the network becomes self-reinforcing. Regime-friendly banks receive a light regulatory touch while their rivals are crushed. In exchange, they offer friendly lending terms to regime-friendly businesses while choking capital to rivals. Such a system, once in place, is extremely difficult to dislodge precisely because, unlike a fascist or communist regime, it is glued together by no ideology beyond basic human greed, insecurity, and love of family.

... This is how Vladimir Putin governs Russia, and how the Mubarak/Sisi regime rules Egypt.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails