Which political party is more corrupt?

Which political party is more corrupt? Republicans or Democrats?

Before you answer, be careful: It is a trick question.

The answer is both of them. More accurately, it is all of them.

The communists are corrupt, the fascists are corrupt, and the socialists are corrupt. The federalists and the whigs were corrupt. Royalty is corrupt.

Politicians aren't the only ones. We know many business leaders are corrupt. Lawyers, accountants, doctors and dentists can be corrupt. People we trust with our lives and our life's savings can be corrupt.

In fact, it is in man's nature, when given power, to turn it to personal gain. We all have corruption within us, and if we were given power to improve our situation, or our family's, or our community's, who wouldn't be tempted?

That is why our country's founding fathers instituted our system of checks and balances. If there is one thing we need to guard as citizens, as taxpayers, and as voters, it is our system of checks and balances. Because without it, no matter which party is in power, corruption is going to be present.

Today, at all levels of government, our system of checks and balances is broken. The reason so many people voted for Scott Brown was because of the abuse of one-party rule in Washington. Many people suddenly realized that the vote for Obama was not just symbolic and was not for a vague promise of hope and change. It turns out that a vote for Obama was a vote (in part) for socialized medicine. Many people voted for Scott Brown so he would stop health insurance reform as it was being proposed.

What they didn't realize was that it was too late. Whether the current law will fully get us there is beside the point. Elections do matter and this law would never have come to pass with John McCain in the White House.

Things were no better under the Republicans when they controlled everything. They are just as guilty of corruption. When George W. Bush ran the first time, I believed him when he talked about his bipartisanship in Texas and how he would be our bi-partisan President. That was not his record and that broken promise cost him my vote.

Our checks and balances are also broken in Massachusetts. We live under one-party control where (virtually) every election is decided in the Democratic primary. Of course, many primaries only have the incumbent running for re-election, so "de facto" there is no real election, not in 98% of the state (I believe that is just about the incumbent re-election percentage).

In Massachusetts, our checks and balances appear to have been skewed by the money and votes of union members. As a group, they have worked for, endorsed, contributed to, and keep in check the Democratic party, which in turns protects their salaries and benefits from being challenged by taxpayers. So we have all these rules that don't allow cities and towns to control their own spending because of union contracts, arbitration, and state laws.

How does this work in practice? Well, when the unknown Jen Benson ran for local state rep two years ago, she was the beneficiary of at least three mailings from the teacher's union to my household. I believe they contributed both workers and in-kind contributions to her campaign. So to the average voter, she had the best name recognition and she handily won. What was her first vote? To re-elect the corrupt Sal DiMasi as speaker, about two weeks before he was indicted. Then I'm sure she supported all of the tax increases that we've recently seen, increases that are hurting people and businesses, but are protecting union jobs and benefits. That about sums up how the system works in our state.

In Acton, our system of checks and balances is also broken. We have a group called the Acton Leadership Group (ALG) which you will hear something about at the upcoming Town Meeting. ALG is comprised of four representatives from the schools, four from the town (municipal), and two members of the Finance Committee. The Selectmen and School Committees are members of our "spending boards." ALG's official role is to figure out how much each spending board gets from all the revenue anticipated. But it does much more than that, none of it under our town's charter or by-laws.

Now, the Finance Committee is supposed to be the independent watchdog for the taxpayers on behalf of Town Meeting, but in that role, they have failed. By participating in the cooperative ALG process, they have lost their independence.

So we have an "Insider's Club" that is running the town. The group that is supposed to stay independent has given up that independence to join the Club. And when you go to Town Meeting, keep track of how many articles that are proposed by the "spending boards" are then supported by our independent watchdog. (If you guessed 100%, or near it, you are right.)

So has this lack of checks and balances harmed taxpayers? You need to be the judge of that. We have a high-performing school system, but we have very high property taxes, one of the top tax rates in the state. We have good town services and amenities, but we don't have many services that other communities offer with lower taxes.

And we do have an exodus of citizens whose children have graduated high school and who no longer can or want to stay in Acton. Many of these long-time residents leave, to be replaced by young families. (And then I'm sure we get some seniors who move in to low-income housing designed for seniors. So don't be fooled by statistics that show our senior population as holding steady or rising. They aren't the same people!)

And then we have tax overrides. We have been spared overrides over the last few years because of a change in the state's education aid formula, of which Acton happened to be a major beneficiary. That netted us several million unexpected dollars. And then we had been saving up to cap the town's landfill, and someone discovered that the state already considered it capped. That freed up about $5 or $6 million.

So we are in a window of time with extra cash while those towns around us are really struggling. Yet we see that we will soon face those same struggles.

But instead of cutting expenses, our leaders and town staff insist that those cuts must be avoided at all costs, so instead we dip into our one-time reserve funds to continue things largely as they are. The budget that will be proposed at Town Meeting this year advocates using $2 million of one-time reserves, and anticipates the same usage for the next three years. Recent projections showed this balance coming close to zero, but now other one-time revenues may come in. But we can't sustain spending more than we earn forever.

All levels of government need to have a system of checks and balances. We need Acton's system to be restored.

Comments

We live in Acton- what a coincidence

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

A quotation from Lord Acton --

Origin

This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

( http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/288200.html )

Signed,

Professor Severus "The Cynic" Snape