>Some people believe America can do no wrong. I am not one of them. Never have been. Never will be. You can’t grow up in Alabama and think that. Newsweek published an interesting article, A Battle for the Basement?, on Saturday about corruption in some of the US states. In fact, they cited the Corporate Crime Reporter’s listing of public corruption as well. The findings were rather what I would expect and the conclusions in the Newsweek article rather apropos. So, first the numbers…
The 2007 study of the CCR found the following Top Ten Most Corrupt States in the US:
- Kentucky (now how did that happen?)
- New Jersey
- New York
Three of the top four pretty much always vie for the top of the lists you don’t want to be on, you know like worst schools in the nation, poorest health care, etc. And the order here is, in fact, the order I grew up with. (Let me just say here I have no idea how Kentucky made this list. Perhaps they are a new contender for the bottom of the nation…) I’m from Alabama. Now, being from Alabama isn’t so bad. Typically we’re either number 3 (bad lists) or number 48 (good lists). So, we always had Mississippi to look down on. And Mississippi was always number 2 or number 49. So, they had Louisiana, but poor Louisiana didn’t have anyone. I always did feel sorry for people in Louisiana. And then we moved there… And here’s what I’ve found. On the lists that they usually don’t compile (nicest people in the US, most pleasant places to live, best weather, etc.), Louisiana and Alabama would likely rank pretty high. El 3atal and I bumped around quite a bit living in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Iowa in addition to Alabama and Louisiana. I would pick the latter two over any of the former. Every day of the week.
And, yes, I know about the corruption in both places. I found the Newsweek article interesting in its perspective. Here’s what they had to say about corruption in Illinois vs. corruption in Louisiana, “The corruption culture in Illinois tends to be mingy, pedestrian, shameful. State legislators who sell their votes for $25 cash in an envelope (a scandal of the 1970s) do not tend toward braggadocio. … Louisiana’s culture of corruption, by contrast, is flamboyant and shameless. … When [former Governor Edwin] Edwards ran for governor again in 1983, he said of the incumbent, “If we don’t get Dave Treen out of office, there won’t be anything left to steal.” “
In states where it is not unusual to see former politicians in federal prison, you get sort inured to it. But, the funny thing is I always felt like Alabama corruption was less harmful and negative. Not, mind you, that corruption will ever be confused with philanthropy, but in Alabama the citizens typically get something for it. It’s not really the mingy and pedestrian Illinois-style corruption. But it’s also definitely not the flamboyant Louisiana-style. As with most other things, we do it our own way in Alabama. Let me give you an example of the almost benevolent nature of Alabama corruption.
Every four years like clockwork the Interstates running through Alabama are repaved and restriped. You have never seen such beautiful expanses of road. Going across the Mississippi/Alabama border is like going from an unpaved donkey trail to a street paved in freshly minted gold. We don’t talk so much about it but everyone knows (at least everyone in the capitol knows) that the road repaving is a very lucrative kick-back for friends and family of the newly elected Governor. It’s corruption, cleanly and simply, but at least the citizens of the state benefit in some way. That seems to be the Alabama MO, openly known but never acknowledged secrets. In our own way, we do things big like Louisiana, but quiet like Illinois. And how interesting it is to see Illinois have their “shameful” secret plastered across the front pages of every newspaper in the country. I will take leave, though, to disagree with the author of the Newsweek article, I think Illinois has a LONG way to go to find itself near the Top Ten on this particular list. Kentucky, new contender that it is, is a fluke I think. I don’t really see that the neighboring Southern States will be losing their stranglehold on the “worst of” lists anytime soon. But here’s hoping!