September 18th, 2009

ACORN in Context


photo credit: Zsaj

Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart have been focusing the nation’s attention in recent days on ACORN, and rightly so. This organization has been riddled with corruption and controversy for some time, and the recent exposés of their widespread lawlessness have only helped to fan the flames of conservative cacophony.

But in this self-congratulatory conquest of corruption and a subsequent congressional termination of funding, one must ask: is this the best we can do? Is this what we should be working on?

To be sure, I believe ACORN is corrupt to the core and should be stripped of all its government connections (grants, subsidies, etc.). But as Glenn Greenwald notes, there are much, much bigger fish to fry:

ACORN has received a grand total of $53 million in federal funds over the last 15 years — an average of $3.5 million per year. Meanwhile, not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars of public funds have been, in the last year alone, transferred to or otherwise used for the benefit of Wall Street. Billions of dollars in American taxpayer money vanished into thin air, eaten by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, led by Halliburton subsidiary KBR. All of those corporate interests employ armies of lobbyists and bottomless donor activities that ensure they dominate our legislative and regulatory processes, and to be extra certain, the revolving door between industry and government is more prolific than ever, with key corporate officials constantly ending up occupying the government positions with the most influence over those industries.

The rest of the article is worth reading to gain further insight into the hypocrisy at play. Through steady doses of government stimuli, America has become desensitized to large numbers. While Greenwald points it out in the paragraph above, the magnitude of difference here bears repeating: ACORN has been given $53 million; private banks, insurance companies, and other corporate behemoths have been the recipients of trillions of dollars. If it needs to be further emphasized, a trillion has six more zeros than a million. Pssst: that’s a lot more money.

The hypocrisy is evident not only in the focused anger towards so paltry a sum (in the inflationary large scheme of things), but in the way so-called “conservatives” reacted to a similar ploy by President Obama. Pressured to show progress in his campaign pledge to reduce the deficit, Obama asked his cabinet to come up with $100 million in budget cuts for the ensuing 90 days. Derisive laughter ensued among his opponents, who used illustrations such as this to depict how minuscule such a budget cut really is.

And now they’re doing the same thing. With so many inviting targets worthy of our attention and ire, the conservative forces are being marshaled not to attack Goliath, but instead to throw spit wads at his water boy. Just as these sums of money are magnitudes of order in difference, so too are the results created by opposing each one. You don’t fell a tree by plucking daintily at its leaves.

It is indeed a sad day when the corrupt use of millions of dollars of taxpayer money is to be considered a small target, but our reality demands tackling the billions and trillions spewing out of the money machine. Those who disagree will suggest that “we have to start somewhere” and that they will “work their way up”. However, their efforts are like trying to stem the tide of the Mississippi River by building a dam one pebble at a time. Their attacks are being undermined faster than they can implement them.

If the small-government lobby continues to focus its attention and anger on low-hanging fruit, the tree of tyranny will soon overtake them. ACORN is corrupt, and I will not be sad to see them exposed and penniless. But the corruption in Washington is far more centralized, better connected, and involves much more money than this ragtag group of community lawbreakers (oops, I mean “organizers”). The preservation of the Republic and our savings accounts both demand that we not spend so much time on small issues and get down to real business.

That business will be the subject of my next article.

13 Responses to “ACORN in Context”

  1. Scott W. Somerville
    September 18, 2009 at 1:35 pm #

    My problem with ACORN is not the dollar amount they have received but the use they make of it. I don’t care if an “artist” spends one dollar or a million of my dollars to put a crucifix in a jar of urine–I will object to the uttermost to using my money to attack my faith. Same with tax-funded abortions: I’d rather spend millions (even billions) more on WIC than a dollar killing a single innocent human creature.

    Wall Street wasn’t getting my taxes until AFTER the government decided they were too big to fail. Now that we’re paying them with tax dollars, I agree they need to be policed.

    As for all the other federal tax dollars the special interests have tapped into over the last few decades–I think each and every dollar is a violation of the Constitutional limitations on federal power. If 51% of the voters can expropriate the funds of the other 49% just because somebody can think of some “general welfare” use to put the money to, we’re all doomed.

    Are you ready to start defunding everybody but the Army, the Post Office, and a short list of other constitutionally prescribed entities (see Article I, Section 8)? I am! Let’s start with ACORN and work our way down through AIG, GM, and all the rest. By the time we get done pruning, the Tree of Liberty may be ready to bear some fruit again.

  2. September 18, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    Contrary to what some right-wingers are saying, ACORN isn’t going to go out of business. However, some of the people they are trying to help fight mortgage foreclosures will be out of luck. What the heck, screwing the less fortunate is what the right does best.

  3. September 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm #

    @rmwarnick–Those that don’t want tax money to fund the arts must hate art. Those that don’t want to fund Cash for Clunkers must hate the environment. Those that don’t want tax dollars funding abortions must hate women’s rights. And those that don’t want to use the force of government to extort “charity” from it’s citizens must just want to “screw the less fortunate”.

    It looks like you’ve got it all figured out. Let us know when you’re ready to get your head out of the sand and look at the world the way it really is.

  4. September 19, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    No Connor this is not the best “we” can do. ACORN is only scratching the tip of the iceberg so to speak. The corruption is very deep and broad in my opinion. Nevertheless, momentum needs to be built and then sustained. It will not be an easy task to rut out corruption. We’re talking about organizations that have command over billions and trillions of dollars and are immoral (play by different rules than you or I). There’s not just one Goliath rather there is an army of Goliaths!

    Americans have been asleep or rather blissfully ignorant about the corrupt dealing of government, big business and special interests far too long. People are now just starting to awaken to a sense of our awful situation. Had we listened to Ezra Taft Benson and other like him years ago the task would not be so daunting. Shoot, it was a daunting task back when Benson was speaking out.

    You write, “Those who disagree will suggest that ‘we have to start somewhere’ and that they will ‘work their way up’. However, their efforts are like trying to stem the tide of the Mississippi River by building a dam one pebble at a time.”

    Don’t be so critical and ridicules. Of course it has to start somewhere. And the Mississippi pebble analogy could as easily be applied to your efforts to restore the constitution. Shame on you for criticizing those you ought to congratulate. As a father you ought to understand that you cannot walk before you crawl and you cannot run before you walk.

    Let’s rejoice in each win it will help to sustain the cause, but let us not be so foolish as to think we’ll have time to savior a victory. We do not have time to stop because we are running out of time. But we can pray for more time and help. We should unite in the cause setting America back on its foundation and not to criticize each other’s efforts. As you alluded to there are big and small fish to fry. But as a grassroots efforts let’s not yet argue about which fish to fry first. Let’s just fry the damn fish. Consensus will build. Pray for more time. If Beck is successful with his 56 Re-founders campaign of getting politicians to rut out the corruption within their own party then I think we will get to those bigger fish yet. As for us we need to keep the pressure on. I am doing what I can and it sounds as if you are too. We need to proclaim our cause from the housetops and wake people up.

    By small and simple means, great things can be brought to pass. Let’s not criticize minor victories, but rather let’s just keep working diligently toward the big victories and praying for more time and guidance.

  5. September 19, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    I followed the BigGovernment website’s story from the beginning. The one thought that came to my mind was, I bet we would find corruption of one sort or another in almost every organization we choose to investigate. –Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending ACORN, or criticizing the investigative reporting– I AM saying that these are very wicked times.

    I knew we had turned a corner a couple of years ago when I heard a speaker on NPR discussing an issue say “I’m not some kind of moralist, but…” as if being a “moralist” was undesirable.

    Or when an editorial on NPR discussed the speaker’s experiences with a coworker who was a recovering alcoholic. As AA encourages honesty, he became fiercely honest. She said he was “more dangerous as an honest man, then as a drunk.” She then went on to say that we all have to lie at work, like calling in sick when we are not sick, etc.

    When a society rejects basic moral restraints as outmoded or quaint, and all behavior is to be measured by necessity and circumstances, all forms of previously unthinkable behavior become acceptable.

    In this type of environment, especially to a compassionate individual, why wouldn’t helping a young girl set up a prostitution business be okay? Our morals tell us prostitution is wrong. If morality is outdated, then what is wrong with prostitution?

    I think this type of thinking is certainly not limited to ACORN or even liberal organizations. The only difference is that in more traditionally conservative organizations, the corruption would probably be more sophisticated, such as embezzlement.

    Fomenting a social/spiritual rebellion in favor of morality and religious belief is our only hope as a nation at this point.

    Exposing the corruption will only work if it is used to show the need for morality. Claiming it is only a problem of certain individuals or organizations allows the rest of us to continue denying the effect relativism has had on our country.

  6. David H. Sundwall
    September 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm #

    Yes, there is a lot more money being wasted elsewhere but ACORN is more than just a drop in the bucket. It actively subverts democracy by election fraud and its advocacy of radical leftist politics. I worked with an attorney who used to work for ACORN and he was quite open about their efforts to throw elections to Democrats. He didn’t care much for the group anymore because it treats their own employees pretty poorly and pays them next to nothing.

    Besides the direct aid ACORN gets, it receives lots of state aid, and as the Big Government videos demonstrate, show others how to defraud the government. So I’m sure the amount of lost money that Mr. Greenwald tries to downplay is much greater when all is considered.

    Not that we shouldn’t target bigger too but ACORN is a pretty big catch whose exposure has been long past due.

  7. September 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    This is a perfect example of corruption that goes on in our country.

    I think Karl isn’t the only one fed up with the corruption…

    If you were to read his blog for the past year, you would find countless examples of corruption. He has been calling for people to stand up and demand the system be cleaned out all along.

    I guess he has finally reached the point at which he is wondering what exactly it will take to get people outraged enough to do something.

    Like I said, it will take a rejection of relativism and a return to morality.

    My husband and I were reading about Pres. Ford today. We chuckled when we read that while Ford was running for Congress he chose not to marry Betty because she was a divorced ex dancer, and he was concerned it might hurt his campaign.

    My how times have changed…

  8. Clumpy
    September 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    Acorn is a half-million member organization with offices everywhere. I don’t let a handful of tithing-embezzling or pedophile stake presidents ruin my impression of my church. I could point out the laundry list of fallacies in those two articles but that isn’t really the point of your post.

    Glenn Greenwald is right on, as always. ACORN is another red herring, a convenient target for Republicans who don’t want to promote conservative politics enough to do anything too drastic, but want to play off of people’s fears (yes, including the fears of people who think that black people dress like this).

  9. September 20, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    As I was typing my comments yesterday I tried to remember the talk in which we were told that the most important thing we can do to preserve freedom in our land was to spread the gospel.

    Well, I found it.

    It was The Predicted Judgements by Joseph Fielding Smith, from a BYU devotional in 1967.

    Here is a link to a Youtube version of this talk, particularly the last segment in which the point is made. If you don’t want to listen to the whole segment, you will find the reference at 3:44.

    He says “If we want to ensure the liberty of people then we must turn back again to Jesus Christ, who is the God of this land. I say we, I mean the people of the United States the people of this continent. We cannot afford to forsake the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ. If we do, we lose our strength.”

    The message is clear.

  10. Clumpy
    September 20, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    I think that’s a very high sort of liberty, lm – moral, conscientious people driven by sincere beliefs and principles. In an imperfect world guarding against corruption and bad policy is an unfortunate necessity, though I think you’ve hit on the ultimate goal.

  11. September 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    I see your point, Clumpy. We have to fight this on many fronts, exposing corruption is but one.

    I remember a talk by Pres. Benson in which he said that fighting for liberty was as important as spreading the gospel. We just may win the battle, but we will certainly save our souls in the process.

    We need to fight on both fronts. Spread the gospel, and morality, and defend liberty and our constitution.

  12. September 21, 2009 at 5:07 am #

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/19/us/politics/AP-US-ACORNs-Troubles.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

    James O’Keefe, one of the two filmmakers, said he went after ACORN because it registers minorities likely to vote against Republicans: ”Politicians are getting elected single-handedly due to this organization,” O’Keefe told The Washington Post. ”No one was holding this organization accountable.”

    That’s why ACORN was targeted. Because it was too successful at getting voters registered, minorities and other poor who vote for Democrats. That’s why ACORN was targeted.

  13. Gabriel
    September 21, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Do not underestimate how this story came to be. Two college students wanted to expose corruption within an organization. They did it for less than $1,300. Two college students were able to force the Congress of the United States of America to cutoff millions of dollars worth of funding for $1,300 of their own money! I hope they inspire a flood of like minded exposers of government corruption. Every flood has started with a drop of rain.

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