Classes in public management routinely include lectures on the importance of transparency; after all, democratic processes depend upon the participation of informed voters, and–as yesterday’s post noted– being informed requires knowledge of what government is doing.

From that perspective, I suppose we might applaud news of the most recent survey from Transparency International.

Transparency International publishes an annual Corruption Index that ranks the world’s governments on their honesty. The United States didn’t do so well.

The U.S. has plummetedin an annual corruption index, falling out of the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011, watchdog Transparency International said in a new report that links the global erosion of democracy and tidal wave of autocrats to an uptick in graft.

“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International (TI).

The Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, found overall that the failure to control corruption is contributing to a “crisis of democracy around the world.”

It will probably not shock you to learn that the U.S. slipped four points since the election of Donald Trump. That’s the lowest score we have registered in seven years.

The low score comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” according to TI.

President Donald Trump is a “symptom, not a cause,” Zoe Reiter, the watchdog’s acting representative to the U.S., told Reuters

“Conflict of interest wasn’t a new problem, but it was illuminated in its glory when you have someone who is basically breaking norms,” she said.

According to the Index, the least corrupt countries were Denmark and New Zealand; Western Europe and the European Union scored the highest by region.

The most obvious question raised by America’s declining honesty is: what are we going to do about it? The most obvious answer is: we’re going to begin by getting rid of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. As salutary as that would be–as much of an improvement their exit from public life would represent–that should only be a start. As Zoe Reiter has pointed out, they are symptoms.

There’s a reason we have rarely heard pundits and public figures use terms like “public servant” and “statesman” over the past couple of decades. The political figures worthy of those labels–in Indiana, the Richard Lugars and the Lee Hamiltons–have been replaced by ambitious empty suits who lack both gravitas and integrity (and frequently, intelligence) and who are unwilling to do the hard work needed to master policy areas.

Empty suits are much easier to corrupt. Hence America’s declining place on the Corruption Index.

The problem is, when politics becomes a dirty word, it’s much harder to recruit bright, idealistic young people to run for office.

We can only hope that the number of newcomers who ran and won in 2018 are a sign of renewed political interest among young citizens intent upon cleaning up what has become America’s disgraceful political sewer.


  1. Citizens United unleashed this corruption in both state and federal levels.

    Until we overturn this horrible supreme court ruling I don’t see any way to slow down the corruption, let alone shrink it.

  2. “The U.S. has plummetedin an annual corruption index, falling out of the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011, watchdog Transparency International said in a new report that links the global erosion of democracy and tidal wave of autocrats to an uptick in graft.”

    Ms. Reiter describing Trump by using the term, “…you have someone who is basically breaking norms…” is simply paraphrasing “Donald will always be Donald”. He deserves points for full transparency as he rants, raves, threatens, name-calls, insults and lies then lies about lying on all forms of media available.

    “The most obvious question raised by America’s declining honesty is: what are we going to do about it? The most obvious answer is: we’re going to begin by getting rid of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. As salutary as that would be–as much of an improvement their exit from public life would represent–that should only be a start.” I would argue Ms. Reiter’s point that they are only symptoms; they have turned their personal symptoms into their cause and are abusing their powers to further their cause.

    The big news out of the state of Virginia regarding Gov. Northen is a prime example of a need for transparency; transparency further than one 1984 medical school yearbook picture of him in blackface and his admit/deny/excuse for his actions at that time has become vital at this time. What has he done since 1984; has he treated Black patients; does his political career show signs of supporting civil rights for all or has his medical school racist Michael Jackson moon walk mentality followed him throughout his career? He was an adult at the time; unlike Kavanaugh who could and did claim high school antics. Local political actions at all levels are the foundation upon which this government’s federal level is built; transparency is just as vital in the Virginia governor’s office as in the White House. Had there been transparency and had closer attention been paid to Indiana’s governor’s office we might have been spared the current poor excuse for a president-in-waiting.

    But…this country knew of Trump’s antics for more than 40 years and still allowed him to become president.

  3. Politics has always been in the Courts, but never like it has been. As Nancy mentioned, Citizens United has got to go. But what irks me is how “brilliant” people thought Scalia was. His rulings weren’t brilliant, just sneaky. He made his mind up first, then selectively plucked from The Constitution and previous rulings to support that decision. He was no better than all the people who skip the part of the sentence that is the Second Amendment that reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …”

    When the Courts abdicate fairness and freedom, the last line of defense is gone.

  4. I am picturing two very different dystopian futures. If Republicans win, I see an “Escape from New York” future for all of us, in which there is only escape for the wealthiest among us. If Democrats win, I see every candidate for high (or even middling) office required to spend two weeks locked in a convent contemplating his or her various sins. All sins must be revealed publicly before one is anointed to run for office and only the purest among us may proceed.

    In each of these futures, there is abundant transparency. Still, I wouldn’t want to live in either.

  5. IMO Citizens United did not unleash political corruption so much as it legalized it. Buying favor has always been with us politically, but what appears to be new is that such corruption has seeped into every institution and industry in our society. Who can defend the operations of drug making, medicine, religion, manufacturing, advertising, marketing, or the internet and social media?
    There is no accountability for any of the corruption we each face on a daily basis. You go to the store to buy food, and there is no way to be assured that the stuff won’t poison you. You go to the drug store for meds and learn that they may cost more than a car payment. You find out that your doctor did not read the results of any of the medical tests ordered. The auto mechanic put used parts on your vehicle instead of the new ones he charged you for. A friend tells you about his experience as a boy of being sexually assaulted by a priest. A local homeless shelter refuses your help, but not your donation, because you do not belong to their religion and are told that nothing you do is any good. And then there are the lies, the endless lies, poured over the population through the media by not reporting what is actually happening with the environment, the government, or the latest research and instead pushing the line most likely to keep the status quo so that businesses can continue to rob the poor and feed the rich.
    Corruption? Thy name is capitalism.

  6. This would be newsworthy if it weren’t already known. We knew Scalia was lying when he told us, “There are no signs of reciprocity between our government and donors.”

    Of course, our Supreme Court justice was blinded by Koch dollar bills. It’s incredible that our judges in the highest court can be bought. What does that say about local judges?

    The Oil Barons have used our military to give them access to strategic oil fields and access points. It would appear they’ve targeted Venezuela as the next country to overthrow.

    And we just pulled ourselves out of an International Nuclear Arms Treaty. By the way, China and Russia both have been friends to Maduro in Venezuela loaning him money (advanced by future oil sales).

    And, these same corrupt people have access to the largest intelligentsia to neuter all opposition, foreign and domestic.

    Maybe David Attenborough got through to some of the Elite in Davos last week about pending climate change disasters so we won’t have to worry about that, too. 😉

  7. Wow, Theresa; you nailed it all. My prescriptions have increased in cost by approximately 50% in 3 months, food costs increase weekly, my car repairs have been killing and the tow truck put a hole in my brake line which I had to have someone else repair to save $500. Citizens Energy Group increased monthly bills in January, I’m waiting to see if my homeowner/vehicle insurance increased after a letter talking about costs everywhere increasing.

    Is this the great economy Trump and his Republicans are bragging about? Our money is moving the economy upward as our living standards are dropping lower. Wages haven’t increased, nor has the minimum wage issue even been mentioned recently. My $15 monthly Social Security check increase doesn’t even cover the increase in one of my prescriptions; but they didn’t increase Medicare this year and take back the increase. Where are all of those thousands of new jobs reported recently; what level jobs are they, where in this country are they located, what is their pay scale and what corporations have actually made any effort to move back here from foreign countries? Where is the transparency regarding jobs and the economy for middle Americans?

    The movie “Missing”; the story of the murder of American journalist Charles Horman in Chile brings out information about American corporations there and our military involvement in the takeover of their government. It took years to uncover the fact that the murders of Mr. Horman and other Americans was approved by our own CIA; not until the Public Information Act were these facts available to those families who were victims or their attorneys. Even with the Public Information Act; this current government refuses to provide legally requested information. I witnessed that first hand during the Goldsmith administration here. And the beat goes on.

  8. We have had transparency for many years. Open Secrets, will tell just about all you may want to know about where candidates for elected offices receive their money from.

    The corruption has it’s tentacles everywhere. The cash buys access. Access leads to having the ear of an elected officials. The McMega-Media probably collects billions in campaign ads, that do nothing except attack, attack, attack. The talking heads on Cable News can bemoan all the negativity, but at the same time they can on a corporate level cash in by airing these ads.

    Ever since money was equated to “Freedom of Speech” the system has been flooded with billions of dollars. Who has more influence on politics – Ma and Pa Kettle with their 200 acre farm near Hooterville, or some giant Agra-Business Company???

    Whose bread I eat his song I sing. Bread of course is slang for money.

  9. We’re scared to search for a cure, as we know that attempting to do it might hurt, at least temporarily, more than the disease itself.

    Definitely, a prescription for a POLITICAL DISASTER.

  10. JoAnn – You are right on. The so-called “wage increase” of 3.2% trumpheted by Wall Street lately is merely an “increase” from a slave wage scale and is still a slave wage. It is not wages per se that is the issue in any event; it is the purchasing power of such “wages” that is the issue. Thus even with a 100% increase in “wages” if inflation were 110% you have had a cut in “wages.”

    The Fed has decided that an inflation rate of 2% is a desirable goal, but just who fits that “desirable” goal? It is not the consumer who is without an offsetting increase in wages or social benefits to stay even. The Fed-approved increase in prices benefits corporate America and increases in wages and/or social benefits are in any event ladled out AFTER the inflation has already occurred – invariably ex post facto – so that wages earners, consumers and those who receive social benefits are always playing catch up (assuming that they do in fact receive offsetting wage increases or other benefits), but not so as to corporations, who are enjoying inflated price regimes in the here and now, which explains JoAnn’s plaint as to lower living standards across the board.

    As to her questioning of where are these new jobs I note that such “new jobs” may not be a real measure of enhanced employment since such “new jobs” may not represent a substantial increase in employment of workers but simply one where already employed workers are on second and third jobs in order to survive in this inflationary economy. Numbers can be misleading, especially with those who have a political axe to grind. It’s called “spin.”

  11. just to think,alot of times it started in,alumni,and college sororities. corruption,Ameriacan style.(of course theres other continents,but we do is so easy)
    the buddies party,part ways,and want to invest,start a buisness,etc,but,it gets to a point they want it all, and find ways with like minded people,college educated,and using words,and cheap rehetoric about the others,(and using the ignorant)to find way to subdue laws,and gain change,for gain,by subverting people,who work,or,the ones they kick first to the curb,poverty. my grand folks said,(and were white)
    “if the white man didnt want poverty,there would be no poverty” if the ones who now rule continue to use its new found power,to only keep the status quo,its obvious,they want poverty,to kick someone to the curb..and keep thier so called power trip. im still wondering just what the hell the republicans really want,though no one would admit a total take over of the goverment,under a CEO like table. conspiracy to the ignorant,real in my views. i have nothing against education,but when its used to demand the end of democracy,and delibertly hold the working class hostage, i object. theres far too many who died supporting a democracy that they expected would carry thier family forever. now its a economy that is held by people who have no responsability,except to themselves.we the working class are the biggest voting block in America,words and cheap rehetoric have distroyed self detemination as we knew it. we have shown complete and utter contempt to allow this to carry on for another minute..we only have one country,America, and if we continue to allow this contempt to live,we might as well just shakle our lives to another form of slavery.economic slavery.

  12. Sixty-two million fools who have been intellectually corrupted most of their lives elected the most ridiculous person in the world to be president. I call them the 5th Avenue people, because: “I could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and wouldn’t lose any votes.”

    What else would be expect? Combine this latest symptom with an earlier 5 alarm warning from Scalia (Thanks, Todd) and his self-serving lies, and you have the energy for the downward spiral of our previously somewhat fair-minded democracy. As long as the most corrupt administration in our history remains in office, we have NO credibility as an honorable country.

  13. What a totally sad commentary but also an accurate one. Sadly, it permeates every level of our society where some people feel that it’s totally appropriate to lie, cheat, steal, fudge the facts to protect their own backsides and outright lie. Trump and his ilk are just very visible poster boys that are emblematic of the rot that is destroying this country and our society. We see or hear about it virtually every day, sometimes multiple times each day.
    I’d do not know if this is because all those that we were traditionally look up to have been dishonored through their own actions or, for various other reasons –many perhaps that we don’t fully understand, we as a people are in deep trouble with if no real semblance of cultural leadership that we pay attention to in any meaningful way. The increasing coarseness of our society is a symptom of this where we read every day about people doing absolutely heinous things in order to pull a fast one or just because they place no value on human life or the life of anything else. We see this all the time and we all know about it and while most of us tried to live our lives in an aboveboard fashion all that is compromised by the corrosion of our values overall and the growing disappearance of any semblance of unity has made us vulnerable to the nefarious aims of criminals and real enemies, both here and abroad.

    Why would there be any transparency when people are reading it each other off left and right and only care about what they’ve done when they are caught or exposed publicly? Virtually everyone that we have come to look up to, whether they be governmental officials, entertainers, or even clergy, have been exposed as falling far short of any sort of rational expectations.

    To cut to the chase were in one hell of a mess with no AAA trip ticket or map to show us the way out of it.

  14. Corrupt government is not much of a news maker on a global scale. There have always been corrupt governments but somehow we thought that the US was above all of that and it turns out we are not. It’s our turn.

    Fortunately our corrupt government seems to be an aberration and not systemic. We are capable of better. Perhaps this is more a wake up call than a new reality.

    This year is our year to design a solution in terms of who will replace what we have with what we want. We have many alternatives being presented to us and we have to decide who will lead the Democrat team to rebuild us into what we once were but adapted realistically to a future completely different from the past. A world not so much of our making but the worlds making.

    I personally think that we can do it but the hardest part is to forge a majority in agreement as to who.

    Everything else is a detail now that we must deal with but in the context of that priority.

  15. Vernon; so, 62 million people actually voted for Trump, Hillary received approximately 65 million with her 3 million more of the popular vote. No one adds in the total of 7 million who voted for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson; bringing the total vote against Trump to over 10 million. Just the facts! And those numbers have been transparent all along; not only adding them to those voting against Trump but, will those 7 million ever understand that they helped elect Donald Trump? I doubt it.

    That is why I am against a three-party system; will it be the one of three with the highest number or will one of them be required to receive more than 50% of the total vote count? Reminds me of that required number 60 votes required in the Senate on some issues and the reason McConnell says he refuses to put some issues up for the vote. His lack of action is transparent but against the Senate Constitutional responsibilities and requirements.

  16. If one examines closely, Indiana has sufficient laws requiring public right to know. We have a representative government. Which means doing all business in public is not required. Efficiency requires a sensible level of etransparency. Our trend is going to deter good folks from entering public service, who though completely honest, are assumed the opposite because they do not spend a rediculous amount of time explaining every move to an unenlightened public. Folks who elect people based on slogans while giving blind loyalty elect the.most corrupt. They also suspect the most honest among the opposition of corruption they overlook among their own.

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