I'm sure today's Krugman column has been done to death already; I just want to nibble around the edges a little bit.
Now, politicians and businessmen are always in a position to do each other lucrative favors. Government is relatively clean when politicians are sufficiently afraid of scandal to resist temptation. But when a political machine controls all branches of government, and those officials charged with oversight are also reliably partisan, politicians feel safe from investigation. Their inhibitions dissolve, and they take full advantage of their position, until the scandals become too big to hide.
In other words, Ohio's state government today is a lot like Boss Tweed's New York. Unfortunately, a lot of other state governments look similar - and so does Washington.
Since their 1994 takeover of Congress, and even more so since the 2000 election, Republican leaders have sought to make their political dominance permanent. They redistricted Texas to lock in their control of the House. Through the "K Street Project" they have put lobbying firms under partisan control, starving the Democrats of campaign funds. And they are, of course, trying to pack the courts with partisan loyalists.
In effect, they're trying to turn America into a giant version of the elder Richard Daley's Chicago.
These efforts have already created an environment in which politicians from the right party and businessmen with the right connections believe, with good reason, that they have immunity.
The message from Ohio is that long-term dominance by a political machine leads to corruption, regardless of the policies that machine follows or the ideology it claims to represent.
First off, I feel obliged to smugly point out that this reinforces my earlier post about how the Republicans have replaced accountability with impunity (will provide link when I get home), which also gets into root causes and potential solutions.
Second off, I believe Krugman's last paragraph is incomplete. It does not address the chilling fact that Washington has proven that the dominance doesn't even have to be long-term to lead to corruption. In the Republicans' case, it seems to have been almost instantaneous (Enron, Energy Task Force), although it continues to worsen by the day.