The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The importance of government trust

Bergheiser discusses the recent issue of government scandals and corruption.

In the past few months, there has been erosion in the trust placed in the United States Congress as an institution. There have been two notable scandals that have occurred recently: Senator Bob Menendez’s bribery scandal, which is currently under investigation, and Representative George Santos’ repeated accounts of spreading misinformation, which eventually led to his removal from Congress. However, these two breaches of trust are not isolated incidents; they are representative of a lack of oversight of government officials that has resulted in increased corruption in our government in recent years.

The most outrageous example of governmental fraud that has emerged recently is that of George Santos, the former Republican representative from New York whose blatantly false anecdotes about his life shocked voters almost from the moment he ran for office in 2022. Many Americans are used to politicians being slightly deceptive or telling white lies, but Santos took dishonesty to another level. Unfortunately, many people tend to see his web of lies as a novelty or something to laugh about rather than something representative of a real political threat, and this enabled him to keep going. Sure, Santos’ ridiculous fake backstories were amusing, but what happens when someone truly sinister takes a page out of his book and does real harm with it? Although his fellow representatives voted to expel him from the House last year, Santos left a trail of deceit that damaged the image of Congress and made political corruption almost commonplace, as it seemed like a new lie of his was exposed almost daily during his time as a representative.

But recent corruption in our government hasn’t been limited to simple lies, as exemplified in the case of Bob Menendez. In January, the senior senator from New Jersey was accused of taking bribes from an Egyptian businessman in exchange for Menendez increasing US business with the sales of military equipment to Egypt. What is even more shocking is that during this time, Menendez was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making this whole affair ironic at best and downright antithetical to democratic principles at worst. The senator leveraged his power in exchange for a monetary reward. Even though he will now likely be charged, the more concerning fact is that he felt comfortable enough to attempt such a blatantly corrupt action in the first place. If a sitting senator can do something that egregious, it opens the floodgates for politicians to commit all sorts of fraudulent acts. 

The recent onslaught of instances of corruption and fraud is not limited to the legislative branch. The Supreme Court has had its own share. Justice Clarence Thomas was found to have been accepting gifts from Harlan Crow, a wealthy real estate developer, for over twenty years. Crow has donated millions of dollars to Republican presidential campaigns and conservative causes over the years. Crow’s gifts to Thomas represent a further erosion of trust in the Supreme Court and our governing system in general. However, corruption in the highest level of our justice system is even worse, as the justices are not elected and therefore do not have to answer to the power of voters. This complete lack of supervision and ethics lends itself to a situation like Thomas’, where he did truly attempt to mask his corruption.

It is ironic that we have seen so much fraud and dishonesty from politicians and government officials in a time when our governing powers should be held more accountable than ever; we have gained a previously unfounded amount of closeness to our elected officials via technology and social media, yet many still feel enabled to commit fraudulent acts as if no one is watching. While this is partially the fault of the people doing it, it is also an indictment of ourselves and how much more pressure we should be putting on our elected officials and government figures to do the right thing.

If people cannot trust their government, how can they be expected to participate in our society? A mutualistic relationship between the government and its people is essential to the functioning of society. However, that help will never come if the trust is not there. And there cannot be trust if the government that is supposed to be helping us is embroiled in scandal and fraud. In a time when trust in government is more important than ever to ensure the safety of our democracy, political fraud due to lack of oversight and pressure on politicians has become all too common and harmful for our country.

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  • Meg KorteApr 24, 2024 at 7:23 AM

    Great article Sam! It is hopeful that your interest and concern may be shared by your fellow classmates. Our country’s future is on the shoulders of your generation to take action.