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Kamala Harris got fact-checked on a junk statistic she cited in her big keynote speech about all that work on “root causes” she says she’s doing to halt the border surge from Central America.
It’s pretty embarrassing.
According to left-wing “fact-checker” PolitiFact:
For more than a decade, an interesting statistic about the cost of corruption has been bouncing around the global-economics community, showing up in statements and reports from organizations like the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.
Most recently, it came out of the mouth of Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Around the world, we know that corruption inhibits shared prosperity,” Harris said May 4, at a conference on the Americas, where she touted the Biden administration’s plans to address the root causes of immigration. “In fact, the global cost of corruption is as much as 5% of the world’s GDP.”
“Five percent,” she repeated for emphasis.
Politifact wrote that no one knows whether that figure is true. It was a figure cited several years ago by a United Nations official, averaging together the output of Western democracies, communist dictatorships, Islamist-fanatic dumps, and third-world hellholes and dividing it by the total corruption.
In her 13-minute keynote address on May 4 to the Council of the Americas, an establishment organization with a leftward tilt, but many knowledgeable people nonetheless, that was her big revelation.
It must have sent eyes rolling, given that it’s highly irrelevant to the three countries she’s supposedly focusing on: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The denizens of COA would know the corruption in the Northern Triangle countries is a whole lot more. Honduras, for instance, has a president who’s been indicted by the U.S. Treasury for involvement in the drug trade. That’s a fish head that stinks from the top and goes all the way down. Harris hasn’t exactly decided to have a talk with him.
But just for a moment, let’s take Kamala at her word.
In the example of Honduras, GDP was last reported at $25 billion. Five percent of $25 billion is $1.25 billion. Joe Biden, however, is making much of that up with a $4-billion U.S. aid donation spread over four years for the three countries, according to his action plan. Combine it with the aid from the United Nations, the European Union, the foundations, and the big corporate investors Kamala cited, and all the corruption should be covered, right?
Actually, the corruption should expand, given that much of it flows from foreign aid, according to the sources of corruption listed by the 2020 annual Corruption Perceptions Index for Central America, put out by Transparency International. Harris might want to read it.
Start with Harris’s call to big corporations to invest in those nations and deliver extra aid. According to the center-left Council on Foreign Relations, big corporations are actually specific perpetrators of the Northern Triangle’s persistent corruption problem:
A broader pattern tends to hold across the countries of the Northern Triangle: big, well-connected firms that finance campaigns and live off government contracts oppose anti-corruption. But with more autonomous medium-sized firms, there’s hope. They have little to gain from the monopolistic status quo, and much to gain from a more level playing field. In Guatemala, these firms generate over 35 percent of GDP and 80 percent of jobs, but they lack a powerful lobbying arm like the megafirms of CACIF. The Biden administration should look for ways to empower and organize these firms. Selecting them as partners in the implementation of USAID development projects and helping them organize an anti-corruption policy agenda could be a start.
Taking the dirty money out of politics
Illicit campaign finance has been called the “original sin” of the Northern Triangle’s corruption: it entrenches corrupt actors in the public and private sectors and strengthens the bond between them. That’s why the CICIG and MACCIH both made it a priority to investigate dirty money in politics. In fact, these were the investigations that shifted elite backlash into high gear. That alone should be proof of how much influence the corrupt stand to lose through thorough campaign finance reform. As long as dirty money continues poisoning elections, corrupt legislators will win elections and block further reforms.
Honduras, according to Transparency International’s 2020 annual Corruption Perceptions Index, scored a record low “24/100” on the Americas chart, just two points above bottom-of-the-barrel-Nicaragua (22/100) and rock-bottom Haiti (18/100) and Venezuela (15/100). Its global ranking was 157 of 180 countries surveyed. Guatemala got a score of 25/100, ranking 149 of 180 countries; and El Salvador got 36/100, ranking 104 of 180 countries. Transparency International notes that most of the corruption in these countries involves government officials dipping into the only place where money still exists — that foreign aid money pile that Joe wants to flood these countries with more of.
All three of the countries can only dream of just 5% corruption cited by Kamala in her big revelatory figure.
Of course, if corruption were all it took to make a place poor, a corruption-filled city like Chicago would be holding out the begging bowl.
Corruption is a big deal, though, and yes, chases out honest foreign investment. Honduras, for one, has seen a plunge, based on United Nations statistics. Based on these reports cited above, such investment also ushers in crony capitalism that the Bidenites are not above partaking in the states themselves.
Obviously, Harris has never heard of Hernando de Soto and his Mystery of Capital, a seminal book that points to missing property rights and malleable rule of law as far better predictors of who gets rich, who stays in the shanties or in the country hovels, and who emigrates.
Harris’s speech is loaded with fallacies. She cites the poor of Central America as driving the border surge, but statistics show that it’s the lower middle classes, not the destitute, who are coming. The dirt-poor of Central America don’t have a spare $10,000 to pay cartel human-smugglers to bring them on into the States; their major quest is for food. They’re taking their United Nations foreign aid for food insecurity, for one. If you read the U.N.’s report on that, it sounds as though they’ve got the problem covered. The lower middle classes, however, do have access to cash to pay human-smugglers, as well as cell phones, which enable them to utilize social media in their quest to hire human-smuggling professionals, as I wrote about here and here. They even leave Yelp-style reviews after they are “serviced” in order to help others obtain the best in customer service.
Kamala’s search for “root causes” is an amazingly shallow analysis. That’s all she’s done as border czar, citing a throwaway United Nation statistic by a foreign official that doesn’t stack up to facts, nor show any relevancy? It sure sounds like it, given the actual efforts, however bad, being done by Samantha Power’s USAID agency, if you look at the comparison in activity. Most of the USAID website, especially the interesting bits about how much cash is being doled out where, is down, so maybe Harris couldn’t get any info.
Harris’s thesis lands on the rocks, given the uselessness of her presented knowledge. She even fails to understand who actually is coming. Were she to go to the U.S. border, as she refuses to do, she’d learn from Texas officials at the Rio Grande that the human waves rolling on in these days are not just from Central America, but in large growing numbers from Venezuela, where locals are fleeing the effects of socialism with all its destruction of democracy, human rights, and wealth. Will she address the “root causes” of that?
Nope, she’s still on the search for “root causes” and obviously not doing her homework. She’s making speeches to people who know more than her and continues to look for all those “root causes.” She’s asking the United Nations and the leaders of foreign countries about this surge instead of the people actually leaving. Now it’s record numbers of migrants flooding in. She can’t learn anything from any of them about those root causes over at the border? Illegal immigration is a highly personal decision made by migrants as individuals, but she’s still thinking she can get her answers from the so-called authorities, instead of asking the people who would know.
She’s not exactly serious about those root causes, given that she’s mostly making 13-minute speeches. She’s a lazy person using about the same industry she used to pass her bar exam as a young law school graduate. That involved flunking out at least once.