Last week California Senator Leland Yee was brought up on so many charges that his story seems like a TV show. Yee has been charged with taking bribes, wire fraud, working with the former leader of a Chinese criminal organization – Raymond (Shrimp Boy) Chow – and conspiracy to smuggle firearms, including $2.5 million in weapons.
Yee has a record of being the kind of politician that says one thing and does another. The SF Chronicle has written that Yee has made campaign promises to voters only to turn around and do the exact opposite once he’s elected, receiving funds from businesses that benefit from his new position. So this charge of smuggling weapons isn’t that surprising even though Yee regularly speaks in favor of bans on automatic weapons. The idea that he would smuggle weapons while arguing for a ban on them is just a more extreme version of the way he has operated throughout his career.
Other Democratic politicians have tried to distance themselves from Yee, condemning his corruption – the last thing they want is an investigation into any of their own political dealings. Yee was one of three Democratic senators brought up on similar charges, along with Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. They’ve been suspended from their roles as senators but will still collect their salaries of $95,000 per year.
So politicians have been taking money for political favors? And this is supposed to be surprising? Being willing to say and do anything to get elected is just what it means to be a politician. The partnership between politics and business is so close it’s hard to even tell the two apart. Businesses get priority contracts, tax breaks, subsidies, bail outs, free passes on legal violations and in exchange politicians expect to be paid off.
Politicians don’t just take bribes – they build their entire careers off of being the servants of the corporations. Yee is being charged for doing on a small scale what the government, banks and corporations do on a large scale all the time – but for them it isn’t corruption, just business as usual.
What about the largest banks in the world carrying out trillion-dollar housing scams, targeting working families? Millions of families lost their homes, their jobs, their retirement. All of this was because of the corruption of large banks, mortgage firms, government credit agencies. Dozens of politicians knew about what was happening and did nothing. Of course nobody ever went to jail for any of this – because politicians made sure they passed the laws so these scams would be legal. That’s what it means to be a politician in this society.
Yee has been charged with small-time weapons smuggling, but this is nothing compared to the largest arms dealer in the world – the U.S. government. To carry out the interests of U.S. businesses around the world, the U.S. government uses a brutal military to overthrow elected officials, to prop up dictatorships, to torture and assassinate opposition figures in other countries. This is a military responsible for the deaths of millions of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the same military that is carrying out regular drone strikes on civilians, the same government responsible for spying on U.S citizens, recording our emails and phone conversations, and threatening journalists for reporting information that challenges official government positions. But all of this is perfectly legal.
Living in their society means dealing with their dishonesty on a daily basis. It means politicians who present one face to the public only to deal behind our backs as servants of the banks and corporations.
None of the corruption charges against Yee or any of the others are really that surprising. If we want to talk about corruption – it is their whole system that is corrupt!