by Whitney Pitcher
Outside of Chicago, most of Illinois is generally seen as farmland with small to medium sized cities and small towns dotting the landscape. However, although central Illinois is well known for having some of the richest soil in the world, southern Illinois was not always fertile farmland. In fact, many of the early settlers died from malaria due to the mosquito infestation of the swampland that covered nearly a fourth of the state. In the 1800s, settlers to Illinois began to install underground tile drains and ditches to drain the swampland. This allowed them to use the land to begin farming to provide for their families, as the once swampy land was now suitable to be settled.
What does this have to with politics? Everything. When Nancy Pelosi took over as Speaker of the House in 2007, she promised to “drain the swamp” and lead the “most honest and open Congress in history”:
One can only think of Governor Palin’s words at her speech in Indianola, Iowa in September when she called out the crony capitalism of the permanent political class:
Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners – the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it’s you who own these small businesses, you’re the economic engine, but you don’t grease the wheels of government power.
The last week or so has provided us more of peek into what Governor Palin has been mentioning over the past several months—that the crony capitalism of Solyndra is only the “tip of the iceberg”. The 60 Minutes segment that aired on Sunday highlighted the crony capitalism and unethical (but frustratingly not illegal) insider trading done by Congresswoman Pelosi and other member of Congress like Congressman Baucus, whom Andrew Breitbart is calling to resign. Governor Palin’s adviser, Peter Schweizer has a book out today entitled Throw Them All Out where he writes in depth about the crony capitalism and unethical dealings of members of both parties. Tony Lee at Human Events has a good review of the book here.
Governor Palin has made fighting corruption and crony capitalism the foundation of her time in public service and the last year and a half as well. Whether it was calling out a fellow city council member nearly twenty years ago for trying to steer business to his company through regulation or highlighting the crony capitalism of the Obama administration and the permanent political class as a whole in recent months, Governor Palin has shined a bright light on the corruption and cronyism that is pervasive in government. With her decision not to seek the presidency at this time, many conservatives and clean government advocates feel a bit lost and rudderless. However, it should be noted that the settlers who arrived in Illinois did not start farming until the swamps were drained. The same could be true of the swamp of Washington D.C. Could this proverbial iceberg bring down the Titanic of crony capitalism? Could this swamp draining allow Governor Palin and/ or other reform minded corruption fighters to cultivate a harvest of clean government in the future? Time will tell, but let us keep vigilant in the meantime. What has become the status quo in Washington, in our state capitals, and in our city halls should not be acceptable. We must hold our leaders to high standards and support those running for office who will be supportive of draining the swamp rather than infesting it.