For as long as there have been politics there have been deals.
Of course, it is illegal to trade one's vote for cash, but those with the power to dispense patronage, projects, and promotions have a unique advantage in seeking the support of those whose endorsements can tip the balance for any given issue.
Whether it was the drafting of the Constitution, confronting the infamous slave trade, Tammany Hall's "favored sons" or directing federal funds for a bridge, this kind of give-and-get has long been woven into the cynical side of politics.
It is unprecedented, however, when the stakes have become so high that these kinds of backroom deals can disrupt an election or even plunge a nation into an unrecoverable cycle of debt and economic despair.
That is why the "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022" that has come out of the Senate "sausage machine," courtesy of its current majority leader, Sen. Charles Schumer, and his surprising enabler, Sen. Joe Manchin, needs to be closely examined. With its $700 billion price tag, it has the potential to seriously harm our nation's economic future.
One of its elements requires a particularly hefty dose of sunlight. This massive spending plan will allow John Podesta, a Biden adviser, former Clinton aide, and longtime Democratic political strategist, to administer some $370 billion in energy programs of his selective choosing.
In a world where companies compete for federal contracts, and where some seek Congressional legislation favorable to their bottom lines, and where D.C. influence is the coin of the realm, Podesta's administration of what can only be described as an eye watering amount of federal cash requires more than casual oversight.
One may assume that the General Accounting Office will pursue their usual role of budgetary watchdog but can they do so in a timely manner, and with the degree of scrutiny that more than half a trillion dollars deserves?
As it is, the Justice Department is still pursuing the criminals who skimmed millions of dollars in COVID relief funds, and one gets the feeling that their efforts do not begin to scratch the surface of the fraud.
But aside from the obvious potential for abuse, what may be of even larger concern is the threat from a federal program that will add even more red ink to a federal budget that is currently staggering under the debt incurred by those COVID relief programs. Current estimates put the U.S. debt approaching $31 trillion dollars.
It is a mind-bending amount of money that some economists warn could eventually bring down the United States economy, and with it, the cornerstone of Western democracy. It is as if we have turned against ourselves the very weapon that brought down the Soviet Union: a weakening economy, increasingly in debt, especially if interest rates keep rising.
It has been said that with great power comes great responsibility. It should also be said that with access to great amounts of money comes the potential for even greater amounts of fraud and abuse. With our democracy and solvency in the balance, the stakes could not be higher.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.