Efforts to fight corruption and abuses of power have been hamstrung by the “highly destructive” anti-government messages prevailing in U.S. politics today, say two of the country’s leading good-government “watchdogs.”
Dan Feldman, a former New York State Assemblyman who chaired the state’s oversight committee, says that growing cynicism about politicians has had the contradictory effect of weakening public outrage over revelations of waste or fraud. Without that outrage, he says, “you don’t get the political pressure for reform.”
And the continuing message conveyed by a number of politicians that “government is the problem” doesn’t help either.
“If we do have an increase in corruption (today), I attribute that in part to that highly destructive message from the early 1980s,” added Feldman, co-author of the recently published “The Art of the Watchdog.”
Phil Zisman, executive director of the Association of Inspectors General, a national organization, said “watchdogs” – ranging from government auditors to media and ordinary whistleblowers— were crucial to keeping government honest and transparent. “The watchdog’s role is to restore public trust,” he said.
Zisman and Feldman both teach in the Department of Public Management at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which has the country’s largest program on government auditing and oversight—with over 800 students.
They spoke on this month’s “Criminal Justice Matters,” produced at John Jay for CUNY-TV and hosted by The Crime Report Executive Editor Stephen Handelman.