By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
If it seems corruption is everywhere you look when you read the local papers or news blogs, it’s not your imagination. Website Cheatsheet.com ranked the 15 most corrupt states in America for 2017 and Louisiana made the list.
Not surprised? Well, that may be one of the reasons we made the list. Acceptance of corruption makes it spread like a cancer. In Louisiana, perhaps we joke a bit too much about the crooked politicians who populate our political swamps. In fact, popular former Governor Edwin Edwards once ran a campaign slogan that said, “Vote for the crook, not the Klansman.” That’s not so funny when you realize the true cost of corruption. It’s why Louisiana makes other lists too. Those lists put us at the top for poverty, hunger, weak education and low pay. Corruption makes it hard to get resources to those in need because those who are mishandling funds are actually withholding money from those who truly need it. But even if you don’t care about needy people you’re still affected. That’s because when a state’s bad reputation goes national, it discourages big companies from investing heavily and seriously in it.
Locally, corruption is an issue too. Theft of money, mismanagement of large sums and officials being convicted while in office are part of the landscape in Natchitoches too. What can we do? First, it may help to swallow any pride involved and listen with an open mind to why others across America keep putting us on lists of the most corrupt. In the article, the writers point out two of the top issues with Louisiana. They gave the state a big fat F and wrote, “The Bayou State has been known as one of America’s most corrupt.” The writers do add that reforms have helped, but not for long. They conclude, “As of 2017, Louisiana sank back into its own swamps with a grade F. Access to information (46th) and judicial accountability (49th) remain its worst areas.” They nailed it. So, we need to make it easier for the public to access information on what’s happening in government and in communities. And we need more judicial accountability. Agree. I think we need a bit more and actually the situation is fixable. Here goes:
- We need more involvement from the public generally. In a recent local election, only about 15% of people voted.
- There needs to be more attendance at council meetings and other community meetings.
- We the people need to let politicians know how we feel. They act in our interests when they know we care enough to email or call them about concerns. On the other hand, when we don’t pay attention to what politicians and community organizations are doing, they begin to believe they’re above the law and don’t have to respond to citizens. Apathy is comfortable, but expensive. An influential local politician told me that public outcry is what politicians respond to. He’s right. They need our votes to stay employed. So outcry and outcry often. It works.
- There needs to be stronger enforcement of laws that require organizations to keep written records and publish and file information.
- Consistent punishment from the justice system and/or fines for any group or person violating court-orders and/or mishandling public funds.
Let’s not forget America was founded by the people for the people. We are really the bosses. Trite but true. Maybe one day when they put together a list of most corrupt states, we won’t be on it. We’ll be on the one listing the best run states. And hey, why not?
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.”—Proverbs 14:34
“He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is actually cooperating with it.”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.