Category Archives: Obtaining income through the government – rent seeking – corruption

Various terms have been used to describe obtaining income through the government that does not provide a good or service.  One of them is corruption.  This typically refers to acts that people consider corrupt, such as government officials taking government money that is not theirs.  People or firms not in the government can also obtain favorable treatment from the government.  Taxes can be avoided, for example.  This is sometimes called corruption and sometimes not.  Rent-seeking is a more neutral term used by standard economics.

Image: The U.S. has fallen below its traditional democratic peers.

Freedom in the World 2020 finds established democracies are in decline

Freedom House March 4, 2020. Despite mass protests in every region, world suffers 14th consecutive year of deterioration in political rights and civil liberties.

Democracy is under assault around the globe, and the effects are evident not just in authoritarian states like China, Russia, and Iran, but also in countries with a long track record of upholding basic rights and freedoms. While protest movements in every region have illustrated widespread popular demand for better governance, they have yet to reverse the overall pattern of declining freedom, according to Freedom in the World 2020, the latest edition of the annual country-by-country assessment of political rights and civil liberties, released today by Freedom House.

Countries that suffered setbacks in 2019 outnumbered those making gains by nearly two to one, marking the 14th consecutive year of deterioration in global freedom. During this period, 25 of the world’s 41 established democracies experienced net losses.

The report also found an alarming global erosion in governments’ commitment to pluralism, a defining feature of liberal democracy. Ethnic, religious, and other minority groups have borne the brunt of recent state abuses in both democracies and authoritarian countries. Left unchecked, such violations threaten the freedom of entire societies.

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Image: How regions scored in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index Credit: Transparency International

Corruption Perceptions Index 2019: anti-corruption efforts are stagnating worldwide

Transparency International January 23, 2020

More than two-thirds of countries – along with many of the world’s most advanced economies – are stagnating or showing signs of backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released today by Transparency International.

Countries in which elections and political party financing are open to undue influence from vested interests are less able to combat corruption, analysis of the results finds.

“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”

CPI Highlights

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives. It uses a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 22 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia, Greece and Guyana. Twenty-one have significantly declined, including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua.

Our research shows several of the most advanced economies cannot afford to be complacent if they are to keep up their anti-corruption momentum. Four G7 countries score lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2). Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point.

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Cover of The Triumph of Doubt by David Michaels

The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception by David Michaels

A government insider exposes the industry playbook for undermining evidence-based policy Sheril Kirshenbaum Science February 10, 2020
His book offers account after account of unethical bad actors working against the public good on issues ranging from asbestos to climate change. Powerful firms and individuals seeking personal gain repeat the tactics of a well-worn playbook of denial and misdirection proven effective by Big Tobacco more than 50 years ago. Michaels pulls no punches, naming the corporations and people responsible for fraud, deception, and even what he terms “climate terrorism.” He reveals the dirty ways that industries have succeeded at shaping their own narratives regarding safety and health by producing articles and diversions designed to deny and distort science while confusing the public.

Cover of The Triumph of Doubt by David Michaels Credit: Oxford University Press

Harm through the government 2020

Iran says U.S. sanctions are taking lives. U.S. officials disagree. Farnaz Fassihi New York Times April 1, 2020
Iran, devastated by the coronavirus, is asking the U.S. to lift sanctions on humanitarian grounds. U.S. officials say sanctions aren’t to blame; Iran is.

A Mexican oil chief’s hide-out: sea views and 2 golf courses Raphael Minder New York Times February 22, 2020
Before he was arrested this month, the former head of Pemex lay low in one of the world’s most discreet and exclusive locations on Spain’s sunny southern coast.

  DC Water tunnels constructed thus far helped save the Anacostia River from 4.5 billion gallons of sewage overflow in 2018, according to DC Water.  Credit: DC Water
DC Water tunnels constructed thus far helped save the Anacostia River from 4.5 billion gallons of sewage overflow in 2018, according to DC Water. Credit: DC Water

EPA is letting cities dump more raw sewage into rivers for years to come Christopher Flavelle New York Times January 24, 2020

Trump removes pollution controls on streams and wetlands Coral Davenport New York Times January 22, 2020

Harm through the government 2019

Column: Trump’s tax cut was a mammoth fraud Steve Chapman Chicago Tribune December 21, 2019

95 environmental rules being rolled back under Trump Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Kendra Pierre-Louis New York Times December 21, 2019

How a Trump tax break to help poor communities became a windfall for the rich Jesse Drucker and Eric Lipton New York Times August 31, 2019
A multibillion-dollar tax break that is supposed to help low-income areas has fueled a wave of developments financed by and built for the wealthiest Americans.

An editorial in the New York Times sets out important ways in which worker’s rights have been reduced in the Trump administration. These include: easing the ability of firms to classify workers as temporary workers, thus eliminating the protections that full time workers have in law, restricting collective bargaining in various ways, limiting the ability of workers at franchised businesses to pursue claims against the franchiser, and failing to adequately enforce existing laws, such as OSHA.
Trump’s war on worker rights Editorial Board New York Times June 3, 2019 (opinion).

Robert Reich points out that about 25 percent of American workers are now temporary workers, eliminating protections that ordinary jobs have including “a minimum wage, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation for injuries, employer-provided Social Security, overtime, family and medical leave, disability insurance, or the right to form unions and collectively bargain.”
The jig is up on the gig economy Robert Reich Truthdig June 5, 2019 (opinion)

California to ban controversial pesticide, citing effects on child brain development Reed Anderson and Juliet Eilpern Washington Post May 8, 2019

Why both major political parties have failed to curb dangerous pesticides Elena Conis Washington Post April 9, 2019

How regulators, Republicans and big banks fought for a big increase in lucrative but risky corporate loans Damian Paletta Washington Post April 9, 2019