Cheney Free Press -

By FRANK WATSON
Contributor 

Oscar in Argentina says cronyism is the problem in their country

Guest Commentary

 

March 15, 2018



During our recent trip through the wine country of Argentina, I became friends with our guide, Oscar. Oscar is an interesting guy. His first real job was as a newspaper columnist for a large daily in Mendoza.

In 1983 he wrote a piece criticizing Argentina’s conduct of the Falkland War. He was promptly arrested, jailed and exiled to Europe. After 20 years, he was allowed to return home and now guides tourists in English, French, Italian or Spanish.

When I told Oscar that I thought socialism was responsible for Argentina’s economic problems, he respectfully disagreed. Free health care and college tuition were good things and could not possibly have negative consequences. He suggested his country’s decline was due to cronyism and offered the following example.

English engineers designed and built Argentina’s rail system in the mid 1800s. It connected all the large cities and was a valuable part of their infrastructure through the 20th century. The government nationalized the system during World War II.

During the 2000 election, the trucking companies banded together to support their favorite candidate who in return promised support for their industry. When elected, the new president summarily abandoned the rail system, giving truckers a monopoly on all shipping within the country. The rails are still there but are not used. You can even see rolling stock here and there, but everything moves by truck.

While we were there, the truck drivers went on strike and recently harvested crops deteriorated awaiting transport. Oscar called unions and industry activists “syndicates.” We call them “special interest groups.”

Our anti-trust laws and campaign finance restrictions limit the power of special interest groups. The rise of Political Action Committees (PACs) threaten the balance. PACs and super PACs do not contribute directly to candidates and are, thus, exempt from campaign finance limits. PACs spend millions promoting issues and candidates.

These committees, syndicates if you will, expect a return for their money. After closed door meetings with representatives of steel and aluminum companies, President Trump recently surprised everyone by reversing the global trend toward free trade. I am sure the president will receive the support of steel workers in the next election.

Mr. Trump has already begun preparing for his 2020 reelection. He has named Brad Parscale to manage the campaign. One of Parscale’s first jobs will be to encourage the creation of PACs and super PACs to support the reelection effort. These syndicates will expect and receive a return on their investment. This is the new reality, but I don’t have to like it. Cronyism is not good for Argentina and is not good for America.

Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free lance communist for over 19 years.

 

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