Some Notes on the Sheldon Silver Case

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15 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Preet Bharara also went after many immigration lawyers for committing fraud by allegedly creating fraudulent asylum applications in 2012. I’m not sure why he thought going after immigration lawyers would help him with the liberal voters though. Although, I do notice that full time immigration lawyers are not given the respect that lawyers working for non-profits or corporate lawyers doing Pro-Bono immigration work get many times.

    Among voters on the liberal/progressive side of the aisle, “corruption” always bothered the middle and upper class progressives more than it did the poor and working class liberal/progressives. This has been the case since the 19th century as far as I could determine. To the poor and working class voters, the allegedly corrupt politicians were the ones that could do things for you during the 19th century and possibly still today. They could get you a city job working in the parks or walking a police beat rather than a worse job in the private sector, help you navigate the various bureaucracies you would encounter, and provide turkeys for family at Thanksgiving. You gave them your vote because if you were poor or working class that was the one thing you might have to give. This wasn’t an ideal situation, it was rather horrible, but without a welfare state it was the only way the poor and working class voters could get government services. The middle class and upper class progressives were aghast at this for reasons both noble and not so noble. The same is still true today. In a recent history of Tammany Hall called Machine Made, the author noted that if Tammany existed today, they would be aghast that political workers aren’t doing more to navigate immigrants into citizenship and than organizing them as voters.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Even with the welfare state, if things get bad enough — corruption is “helpful” — it keeps people around, and working, when there’s not really enough money. As a temporary solution for “our city is imploding” — i’ve seen worse.

      The problem comes in dismantling the corruption afterwardsReport

  2. LeeEsq says:

    Another way to put why middle class, educated types care more about corruption than upper and working class voters is because they are hurt more by it than upper and working class voters. Rich and working class voters can tolerate corruption because various forms of corruption directly help them. It could allow them to mine on federal lands or get through the criminal justice system. For educated, middle class people corruption hurts them. That is why they care about it.

    I think your right in your solution. The only real way to avoid corruption is to make elected officials and civil servants perceive it as unnecessary by giving them good salaries and benefits. That is the normal solution in most other countries. Like many other things, Americans seem to reject the obvious solution though.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “Morals are for the Middle Class. The Rich don’t need them and the Poor can’t afford them.”-George Bernard Shaw.Report

    • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:


      “I think your right in your solution. The only real way to avoid corruption is to make elected officials and civil servants perceive it as unnecessary by giving them good salaries and benefits. That is the normal solution in most other countries. Like many other things, Americans seem to reject the obvious solution though.”

      Right…because it’s worked out SOOO well in the halls of Congress. Paying them full time doesn’t change the fact they are corrupt. It just changes the excuses why.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    I worked with a woman, last name Teachout. She was a teacher. I found this awesome.Report

  4. Mike Schilling says:

    The account alleges among other things that Sheldon Silver used his office for private gain by steering clients to law firms that employed Mr. Silver to be “of counsel.”

    A racket known as “The Giving Tree”.Report

  5. Murali says:

    I suspect that there are lots of hidden costs to corruption such that even the poor would be better off if there corruption was vastly reduced. It is just that the middle class feel the deadweight loss from corruption more keenly. But it doesn’t follow that the costs to the poor don’t outweigh the gains. They just might be unaware of those costs but keenly aware of the gains.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Murali says:

      I also suspect that the way the poor see it, the rich get away with corruption most of the time from their point of view and they want in because some of it makes their lives easier. They can get goodies. Getting rid of corruption without programs designed to help the poor is probably a non-starter.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:


      I don’t disagree but it is still interesting to me that Cuomo cleaned up in NYC and it does make me think about the bridges to gap in liberalism between various groups.

      In Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower she talked about the differences between the elite in Britain and the United States at the turn of the century (and I suspect some of these hold true today). In 19th century Britain, the aristocrats and rich presumed themselves to be the natural politicians and really the only people who should be in government. Even the new rich were distrusted because Capital was an unsavory way to make money as opposed to land and rents. This is why so many manufacturers were in the liberal party I suppose (causing the liberal party to have its own dissents between the Gladstonians and the radicals like Lloyd George).

      In the U.S., the closest thing we had to aristocrats largely kept away from politics because politics was seen as low. Friend theorized that Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t last long because he would not be able to deal with saloon-keepers and their clients on a prolonged basis because of his elitism.

      I suspect a lot of good government types would be shocked by what non-middle class Democratic voters expected of politicians and they are potentially shocked by NYC’s minorities going strong for Cuomo.

      This is not to say that Silver is not guilty. He very well could be guilty. And this is not to take way from your point at hidden costs.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Murali says:

      I dunno. Demand destruction of a significant degree can be mitigated, temporarily, by corruption. This avoids the problem of needing to create new housing/infrastructure in other places, by keeping people’s asses in their homes here.

      And of course, whether that’s a good idea depends on whether you’re throwing money at St. Anthony’s Wilderness or Pittsburgh — one is going to recover, the other we’re rather glad isn’t.Report

  6. j r says:

    Is there any empirical evidence to this idea that poor and working-class people don’t mind corruption or mind it less than the middle or upper-middle class? It is possible that voting for Zephyr Teachout is a suitable proxy for measuring feelings on corruption, but it is also possible that it is just some form of upper-middle class signaling behavior.

    If it’s the latter then the argument that the poor care less about corruption becomes a circular argument. In other words, if you define anti-corruption behavior as essentially analogous to middle-class norms, then of course the poor will appear corrupt.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to j r says:

      Yes, of course there is. We have thirty years of election data here in Pittsburgh. (Yes, everyone who gets elected mayor has a D. I can tell you who is/was corrupt and who wasn’t — or you could just ask the FBI).Report