Emerging democracies need strong leadership to take the next step. But, they do not need an autocrat who longs to run Russia the way the communists run China. If you can get past the democracy versus autocracy issues, there are three glaring similarities that define the Russian and U.S. political systems.
Putin had very little net worth when he entered politics. He is now worth billions of dollars and potentially tens of billions of dollars. Where did the money come from? A lot of U.S. politicians start with nothing and semi-retire as multi-millionaires who become part-time lobbyists, partners in major law firms, talk show hosts, and authors of best-selling books. And, don’t forget the golden handshake that includes benefits for life – benefits the average American can only dream of.
Then there are the Russian oligarchs who have taken over a large part of the productive resources of their country. This could not happen without the support of politicians who are controlled by Putin. The U.S. also has oligarchs that run Wall Street firms and big public companies. They are often referred to as special interest groups and are labeled too-big-to-fail so political allies and public money supports them during the tough times.
The third leg of the Russian renaissance is an apathetic public that lets it all happen. The Russian people are letting greedy politicians and oligarchs rape their country’s resources and they sit idly by watching it happen. Powerful politicians who control the military and the oligarchs who control the companies disempowered them. I believe this is called crony capitalism.
U.S. voters are not much better. We read story after story that documents the corruption in Washington and on Wall Street and we do nothing about it. We are equally disempowered by money, our money that goes to corrupt politicians and the executives who run companies that dominate how we think and act.
We should make sure our own house is in order before we throw too many rocks at Putin and his cronies. We may not have an autocrat in the White House, but we are faced with similar levels of corruption when Wall Street banks can rip-off the American public with impunity.