Affirmative action for the rich by @BloggersRUs

Affirmative action for the rich

by Tom Sullivan

Transparency International makes an annual, country-by-country assessment of "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain." It's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) review of the United States of America issued at the end of January begins:

With a score of 71, the US has dropped four points since last year. This marks the first time since 2011 that the US falls outside of the top 20 countries on the CPI.

“A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” said Zoe Reiter, Acting Representative to the US at Transparency International.

The U.S. ranks behind Denmark (score 88, first in the survey), Sweden (85), Norway (84) — "socialist" hellholes to hear some Republicans tell it — and Germany and England (both 80).

The occasion for citing the CPI data is Tuesday's reports of a college admissions scandal in which federal prosecutors charged 50 people in a scheme to gain their children admission to elite universities through bribery and fraud. Hollywood celebrities and the CEO of a large private equity fund are among those charged.

The Atlantic's Alia Wong explains those involved paid "hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars per child to a fixer who would then use that money to allegedly bribe certain college officials or other conspirators to help secure the child’s admission."

The New York Times elaborates:

At the center of the sweeping financial crime and fraud case was William Singer, the founder of a college preparatory business called the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key.

The authorities said Mr. Singer used The Key and its nonprofit arm, Key Worldwide Foundation, which is based in Newport Beach, Calif., to help students cheat on their standardized tests, and to pay bribes to the coaches who could get them into college with fake athletic credentials.

Singer has already pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, and money laundering. In a Boston courtroom on Tuesday, he described the broad outlines of his scheme:
“If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in where a student just does it on their own, and then there’s a back door where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they’re not guaranteed in,” Mr. Singer said. “And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in. So that was what made it very attractive to so many families, is I created a guarantee.”
Anand Giridharadas, editor-at-large for Time and author of "Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World," spoke with MSNBC's Chris Hayes Tuesday on "All In." There is garden-variety rigging of society for the wealthy that benefits them as a class, Giridharadas say, and then there is the allure of being elite among the elite. Giridharadas views the admissions scandal in the context of a larger culture of corruption [timestamp 5:22]:
Giridharadas: I think what's so telling about this, it's possible to look at this story as this one story and it's possible to to go a little broader and look at our education system ... But I think it's also possible to look at this story as a biopsy of corruption as the increasingly all-saturating theme of American life in 2019: where the president who essentially did similar things to guard and keep his fortune from his parents; with a president who has essentially lied his way to the top and lied to stay in; all the way through the legalized bribery system in the post-Citizens United world; to Michael Cohen and everything he's exposed. These things can't be isolated from each other. This is becoming who we are and the essence of who we are.
We. One cannot absolve the broader, non-rich culture of the sin. The man a minority of Americans elected president in 2016 is the poster child for indemnified wealth cheating to get, not ahead, but even further ahead. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation may yet prove he defrauded the United States in conspiracy with Russian agents to rig an election he never expected to win. He ran for president in hopes of a big score — hundreds of millions from a Trump hotel deal in Moscow. For many Americans, proof will not matter. We absolve wealth of its sins the way Catholics once sold indulgences. Generations after America ceased working this way, we delude ourselves that we want a country in which, through hard work and playing by the rules, anyone can get ahead. But we stop by the convenience store on the way home from low-paying jobs to buy lottery tickets for a shot at a workaround. We lionize wealth as a sign of personal merit and God's grace when the birth lottery and a willingness to flaunt the rules have more to do with it. The sitting president's children, too, are proof wealth does not make one smarter, wiser, more virtuous, or fit to lead.

Each July 4th, America celebrates its liberation from rule by a corrupt, wealthy aristocracy. Then, every election a large fraction of us vote to be ruled by one. We want to be them.