Ro­ma­ni­ans say no to cor­rup­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ed­i­to­rial ap­peared in Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette:

In a de­vel­op­ment rem­i­nis­cent of the United States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ ef­fort in Jan­uary to gut the Of­fice of Con­gres­sional Ethics, the Ro­ma­nian par­lia­ment passed a bill in ef­fect de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing its mem­bers’ cor­rupt prac­tices.

Specif­i­cally, it stated that only theft or bribery amount­ing to a sum more than $48,500 would be pros­e­cuted. Smaller pieces of lar­ceny would, in ef­fect, go un­pun­ished. Ro­ma­nia, pop­u­la­tion 22 mil­lion, is con­sid­ered to be a Balkan cross­roads of cor­rup­tion. Its par­lia­ment’s mem­bers were no doubt count­ing on the coun­try’s gen­eral tol­er­ance of the prac­tice to al­low the mea­sure to slip through with­out pub­lic re­ac­tion.

That turned out to be wrong. Ro­ma­ni­ans turned out in the streets of Bucharest in the hun­dreds of thou­sands for six nights straight to de­mand that the de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing statute be scrapped. Prime Min­is­ter Sorin Grindeanu made such a pledge, but that did not dis­pel the demon­stra­tors who con­tin­ued to de­mand ur­gent ac­tion to change the law. When that did not oc­cur im­me­di­ately, they de­manded the res­ig­na­tion of the gov­ern­ment, only elected in De­cem­ber.

It may be that pub­lic in­tol­er­ance of gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion is spread­ing across Europe, as well as pos­si­bly Amer­ica. The French pub­lic has re­sponded to news re­ports that Repub­li­can Party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Fran­cois Fil­lon, pre­vi­ously deemed the favourite to win the elec­tions later in the spring, had put his wife on the par­lia­men­tary pay­roll for years, with­out her do­ing any work. At the mo­ment, French polls show far-right can­di­date Marine Le Pen in first place, ahead of Fil­lon, among the can­di­dates for the pres­i­dency.

Amer­i­cans too, in spite of the con­sis­tently stag­nant wages that have char­ac­ter­ized the U.S. econ­omy for decades, have, in gen­eral, shown a high tol­er­ance for law­mak­ers’ own aug­ment­ing of their for­tunes while in of­fice. At least half of the mem­bers of Congress are mil­lion­aires, and the Cab­i­net nom­i­nated by new U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is chock-full of very rich peo­ple. It is ar­guable that they will be more hon­est in of­fice be­cause they are al­ready rich, but that may be hard for Trump’s “for­got­ten peo­ple,” work­ing two or three jobs just to get by, to be­lieve.

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