Corrosion of Liberty is The Real Cancer – Corruption is Just a Symptom
By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from July 29, 2009 Current Newspapers.)
Last week, the FBI arrested 44 people in New Jersey after a three-year investigation. They were 2 of our 80 State Assembly members, 3 mayors, a deputy mayor, a bunch of local construction officials, a kidney broker, and 5 rabbis. The politicians allegedly promised big favors to people who gave them big political contributions. The local construction officials allegedly helped get permits for those friends of the politicians.
The kidney broker gave lots of money to healthy poor people willing to sell an extra kidney to sick rich people who wanted to live longer and healthier.
The newspapers didn’t say much about the rabbis. My guess is that the rabbis helped crooked business owners hide money borrowed from banks, so the owners could then bankrupt their businesses, wipe out the debts, and keep the money. The rabbis allegedly got big bonuses and commissions for doing this – just like the AIG and Goldman Sachs executives who did pretty much the same thing.
All but one of the politicians were Democrats. Assemblyman Dan Van Pelt (southern Ocean-Burlington and northern Atlantic Counties) was busted just a few months ago. His case reminds me of when I was an Atlantic City Councilman 20 years ago.
Back then, the state police caught our black mayor and some black council members in a similar undercover sting. But the Attorney General refused to indict anyone until they got at least one white guy. At first, the state police went after me.
A good friend introduced me to the “confidential informant” who I already knew well. He flattered me, and offered a generous campaign contribution. Later, he asked for a small favor so he could help a close mutual friend. Had I taken the money and done the favor, I too would have been paraded in handcuffs before the cameras. Did the FBI do the same thing to get their one Republican?
Every day, our newspapers echo the words of FBI chief Ed Kahrer: “New Jersey’s corruption. . . is a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state!”
But the FBI and the papers have it all backwards. Corruption in New Jersey is only the symptom of the cancer – not the cancer itself. The cancer that is causing this corruption – and the painful death of our state – is the destruction of our liberty. And the very people who now complain the loudest about corruption, are the ones who created it.
Most corruption in local government is caused by our ridiculous building, zoning and tax laws. Almost every building in every town is in violation of something. No business can expand or modernize, and nothing new can be built, without some “waiver”, “variance” or “redevelopment exception” from the law. Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point spent a small fortune on lawyers and planners just to put up a sign telling folks how to get to its new Emergency Room. The owner of a mansion in Avalon was denied a permit to build a swimming pool on his sprawling property!
Taxes work the same way. No business can afford to pay taxes on the full cost of any new building. Every major project in New Jersey cannot be profitable without some abatement, subsidy, or other special deal from the government.
We have corruption because politicians decide who gets these special deals (and therefore succeeds) and does not (and therefore fails) – just like in Russia and Mexico.
There is only one way to end this corruption – have fair and simple laws and treat everyone equally! If government gives one property owner a waiver, variance, or “redevelopment exception” from a bad zoning law, every property owner in the same zone should be automatically allowed to do the same thing.
We should cut government spending and give everyone lower taxes – not just a handful of insiders.
This can be done quickly and easily. First post all government salaries and contract on the internet, so citizens know who is getting their tax dollars and how much they are getting. There would be such anger that we could then change some laws and give local officials the power to make sure our public servants don’t get more pay, benefits, or job security than the public they supposedly serve.
What would we have if governments treated all citizens equally, and exercised their just powers with the consent of the governed? Liberty! Followed by Prosperity.
For more information, visit www.libertyandprosperity.org or contact Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-927-7333, or listen to 92.1 FM every Saturday from 8AM to 9AM. Breakfast discussion groups are held Saturdays after the show from 9:30 to 10:30 AM at two locations: Athena Diner, New Road, Northfield, and Pegasus Diner, Routes 40 & 47, Malaga.