Keep this handy as you read daily — no, hourly — ominous headlines out of the U.S. White House:
It’s Transparency International’s scathing analysis of how demagogic populist leaders are scamming voters in search of relief from their justifiable perceptions and concerns about socio-economic inequality.
Just published as an extension of T. I.’s global 2016 Corruption Index, “Corruption and Inequality: How Populists Mislead People“, is a powerful indictment of the Donald Trump regime and those of other xenophobic national leaders. The report summarizes the hijacking of the real corruption-inequality connection:
Trump and many other populist leaders regularly make a connection between “a corrupt elite” interested only in enriching themselves and their (rich) supporters and the marginalization of “working people”.
… Yet the track record of populist leaders in tackling this problem is dismal; they use the corruption-inequality message to drum up support but have no intention of tackling the problem seriously.
… [This] movement that links corruption and inequality is global but it is not progressive. It is reactive, nativist and often right-wing. It is exemplified by politicians like Trump in the U.S., Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland and president candidate Marine le Pen of the National Front in France.
The “Corruption and Inequality” report presents this “antidote to corrupt populism”:
We would advocate:
- stopping the revolving door between business leaders and high-ranking government positions
- holding the corrupt to account rather than letting corrupt officials hide behind political immunity (the Lava Jato case in Brazil, for example)
- enforcing greater controls on banks, luxury goods sellers, lawyers and real estate agents who help launder corrupt money
- outlawing the use of secret companies that hide the identity of the real owners
These proposals require the investment of substantial political capital by government leaders to confront entrenched interests. It is in the interests of democratic governments to use that capital so they can again deliver on their central promise to provide equal opportunities for all.
But it is not optimistic about an early rollback:
Judging by the success of the populists at the ballot box, it is clear that they have been able to exploit the disenchantment of people with “the corrupt system” and present themselves as the only “way out” of the vicious cycle described above.
“Drain the swamp”, Trump’s epithet for reforming Washington D.C., clearly resonated with US voters and there is strong academic evidence that corruption as an issue was indeed salient for many anti-establishment voters in post-Communist countries …
The question is: are these voters backing a real anti-corruption proponent or supporting con artists?