Uncle Sam Shouldn't Bankroll Lawmaker Libraries
Rwanda has negligible corruption says Transparency
This news is huge about a struggling African nation making progress, something we can all cheer, while the US Government continues to waste revenue and reward insiders. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) BBC, July 22 on Rwanda and (2) Weekly Wastebasket, August 6, Volume XV No. 31.
by BBC and by Taxpayers for Common Sense
Rwanda has negligible corruption – Transparency
Incidents of bribery in Rwanda are negligible, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International says.
Rwanda, which has been striving to rebuild itself following the 1994 genocide, was by far the least corrupt country in East Africa.
Rwanda and its neighbor Burundi were included in the East African Bribery survey for the first time.
Burundi was ranked as the most corrupt nation, dislodging Kenya, where a slight improvement was registered.
The survey measures bribery levels in the private and public sectors and was conducted between January and March this year.
Rwanda's critics say corruption is so low because it is a police state
It is holding elections next month but opposition groups say they have been barred from taking part.
Transparency International said it was unable to produce a comparison of how Rwanda's institutions fared because reports of bribery were so low -- and no Rwandan organization was included in the regional comparison.
It names the Revenue Authority in Burundi as the most corrupt organization in East Africa, followed by its police force with Kenya's police in third place.
East Africa's common market came into force this month and is expected to boost trade across the five East African nations surveyed.
However, Transparency International warns that corruption threatens to hold back the common market's full potential.
It notes that people often do not bother to report cases of corruption in the region. For example, 93% of respondents from Uganda, which was listed as East Africa second-most corrupt nation, did not report the matter to any authority.
Since the genocide, in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, Rwanda's government has acquired many admirers in the West for its efficiency.
JJS: While Rwanda might not be doing the right thing for the right reason, politicians in the US are doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason.
Uncle Sam Shouldn't Bankroll Lawmaker Libraries
Congress is sending tens of millions of tax dollars, in lieu of flowers, to underwrite non-profit institutions named after recently deceased lawmakers, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service at the University of Pittsburgh (Johnstown) are being established. Both institutions are being publicly funded to the tune of $10 million each -- through earmarks in the defense spending bill being considered in the House of Representatives.
The descriptions provided by the lawmakers requesting these earmarks suggest these institutions are akin to Presidential libraries. For instance, the Murtha Center will be “…a highly accessible and preeminent archive and repository of Representative Murtha‘s public papers.” Except that Presidential libraries are privately funded. And this isn’t just seed money either, rather an ongoing taxpayer commitment. The Kennedy Institute received $20 million last year, which is less than half of the predicted cost for the facility scheduled for opening in 2013.
What is equally striking is that the funding has been stuffed into, of all places, the military spending bill. Why? Because the defense bill is already so large, these projects don’t stand out. A $10 million earmark in another bill would stick out like a sore thumb, but in the defense bill it fits right in. And these are hardly the only outlier earmarks in the bill, which also includes hundreds of millions for cancer research, for instance. And while we are obviously not opposed to cancer research, why is it in a defense spending bill instead of going through the existing pipelines like the National Cancer Institute?
But we digress.
Funding to lawmaker libraries has also raised some eyebrows recently with news that corporations with business before Congress have been making large contributions to them, or to universities in honor of a specific lawmaker. The New York Times reports energy companies Fluor and Duke Energy have been making contributions to the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center at South Carolina State University, as Rep. Clyburn (D-SC) has pushed legislation funding new nuclear power plants. A military contractor donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the University of Louisville in honor of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Sen. McConnell later sponsored a $12 million earmark for the company. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) got into ethics hot water for using his Congressional letterhead to solicit contributions from companies with business before his panel for a program honoring him at the City University of New York.
If someone wants to honor a former lawmaker by naming a building or scholarship after them, great. And if someone wants to build a library or educational facility honoring a former lawmaker, that’s fine too. But corporations making large cash donations to a sitting lawmaker’s “edifice complex” or taxpayers getting stuck with the bill for namesake institutions by way of earmarks buried in random spending bills just diminishes the institutions themselves.
JJS: Raiding the public treasury is corrupt, in the US, Africa, anywhere, and should be treated as a crime. Still much of the problem goes away if politicians don’t have the power to spend public funds willy-nilly. And if government did not waste so much, people would be more agreeable to paying what they owe society, specifically land dues, the core of geonomics.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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