Cronyism 101: How cronyism works and why nothing will fix it

As the 2016 presidential election approaches, we continue to hear common rhetoric from past elections as they attempt to appeal to the ‘common man’ to avoid being tied to any form of political cronyism. Is the corruption we hear about on news something so foreign and contrary to human nature that it only exists in the vacuum of politics? Hardly.

Cronyism: the unfair practice by a powerful person (such as a politician) of giving jobs and other favors to friends

Cronyism is usually portrayed by the media and Hollywood as a very evil thing, a corrupted system fostered by inequality but the actual definition could apply to you or me. Maybe it’s a bit naive to believe that the normal or fair state of society would be void of considerations such as familial relations, friendship, etc. Some are born into wealth and power, but if you aren’t one of the lucky ones you have to earn it. Why do you think some parents push their children throughout grade school for the chance to spend $50,000 a year at an Ivy League university? It’s the hope that it will open their children to the world of the wealthy, the influential, and the powerful.

It’s not a problem of disparity of income but rather a disparity of power.

A primary driver for top law students who aim to get into large powerful law firms and forgo their own practice is that established law firms are led by powerful people with deep connections between two other ‘important people,’ whether those connections be large corporations, politicians or judges.

None of this is new and every single change instituted to combat cronyism has failed and actually establishes a more corrupt working environment. Just imagine each well intentioned idea to combat cronyism as another hurdle in life for people coming from the lower or middle class. Hurdles don’t affect people at the very top from becoming more rich or powerful. They only slow down people at the middle or very bottom.

Nepotism: the unfair practice by a powerful person of giving jobs and other favors to relatives

Consider for a moment Bill & Hillary Clinton’s daughter: Chelsea Clinton who, according to Politico, earned $600,000 per year as a part time news correspondent for NBC News. Also during this same period of time, Chelsea was also vice chair of her parent’s non-profit, The Clinton Foundation, where she continues to work to “to drive the vision and programmatic work” (yes, that’s a direct quote from the Clinton Foundation website). 

“If that name hadn’t been connected to American royalty, she could have expected to rake in between $100,000 and $200,000 as a first-year network correspondent, a job that people from less-high-profile families snare only through years and years of tireless work covering the news. That salary range is confirmed by several people familiar with the compensation levels at major network news outlets.” – Washington Post

Daughters of powerful men of politics
Daughters of powerful men in politics: Meghan McCain (left) and Chelsea Clinton (right).

Democrats don’t own a monopoly when it comes to thriving on a disparity of power. Meghan McCain, daughter of Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain, has a cozy job at FoxNews after running a blog during her father’s presidential campaign in 2008. Since joining Fox News she’s imparted her viewers such intellectualism as:

“Ted Cruz, in many ways, is the thinking man’s Donald Trump” – Meghan McCain on FoxNews

Corrupt: having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain

Why don’t we see people from either party decrying these specific instances of nepotism? Because they’d like to believe their sons and daughters will be ‘taken care of’ when the time comes, wouldn’t you? The key to understanding cronyism is that it’s all self serving. When these people donate a portion of their wealth to a charity, they aren’t donating to small, localized charities with low overhead. They donate to the largest charities with the most overhead and the kicker is that they load these non-profits with family members, business associates, and friends who all make hefty salaries as chair members on non-profit board of directors. Why do you think the top 19 charities CEO salaries make over $1 million per year? If that doesn’t bring you to tears, think about this: highest paid non-profit CEO receives almost $3 million dollars per year!

Both Chelsea Clinton and Meghan McCain seem like fine people and their families should be proud of their successes but it would be incredibly naive to believe that these two women received the same opportunities as a commoner. Countless people at NBC and FoxNews are, as we speak, at the very bottom of the industry are scratching and clawing their way to get a ‘piece of the pie’ and get passed over time and time again.

Imagine the repeating surnames in Hollywood as they propagate from one generation to the next whether they be a Barrymore, Kardashian or Baldwin.

One area of hope is ironically in major sports. It’s one of the few professions where you cannot skate by on your family’s name. There were periods of racism and discrimination in major sports but once those were lifted, we quickly saw minority athletes gain dominance at the upper echelons of major sports and now currently minorities make up 41.2% of the players across all Major League Baseball teams.

Everyone isn’t on the same playing field and they never will be

As the old saying goes: ‘if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ Reciprocation and loyalty are admirable qualities across all income levels and might be more important in upper circles of society because they are usually positive traits.

Good thieves never get caught, sort of like good politicians. In our society, we actually reward them with their own television shows and airtime. We listen to them intently as they tell us how the other party is full of cronyism and how they can fix it if we only elect them. Perhaps that’s the point… to give us hope… it certainly hasn’t given us anything else. If some people actually gain hope from partisan politics, then there’s at least one thing gained from the rhetoric of politics. Sadly, it’s misguided hope.