Watching the news of the latest budget wrangle in Congress where riders were added to the spending bill to cancel more of the restrictions placed on Wall Street after the 2008 banking collapse reminded me of this scene in my novel “The Swamps of Jersey.”
Here reporter Jimmy Dawson is speaking with former Ironton Mayor Howard Newton, a political ward-heeler of the highest degree.
The conversation touches on the nature of political corruption. Newton’s words are freighted with irony, evident later in the story.
“The crooks are wearing the suits, Jimmy, sitting on city councils,” Newton said. “Seems so innocuous. They write an ordinance to tear down a building so only their friend’s company could qualify, look the other way when their brother’s kid wants to be a cop or stack the land-use board with their golf partners. They twist the law into knots to justify anything they want. That’s who the Attorney General caught. For them it’s like breathing. They don’t think anyone notices. Then there’s the guys with three cell phones and nine hundred dollar suits. Listen to them. They sell so much bullshit, they forget who they sold it to.”
“But when that something you traded wasn’t really yours, isn’t that corrupt?” Dawson asked.
The old man turned, his mouth working.
“You tell me, Jimmy. You tell me.” The raspy voice had an edge, the lips drawn tight. “What’s it mean when a lobbyist for the oil business sits in a committee room and helps a Congressman write a bill about oil regulations? Or when the bankers cook the books in a way that even other bankers can’t figure it out? The U.S. Supreme Court gave human rights to corporations and said that money is free speech; said big companies can cheat women out of equal pay. The big stores pay so little or schedule employees so they work a little less than full time so they have to get health insurance from the government.”
Newton pointed a finger at Dawson.
“That’s corruption, Jimmy. Big time, in your face, stop us if you can corruption and they have the money, the lawyers and the rules to make it stand up.”
“The Swamps of Jersey” was published by Imzadi Publishing and is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com