In a development reminiscent of the House of Representatives’ effort in January to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Romanian parliament passed a bill in effect decriminalizing its members’ corrupt practices.

Specifically, it stated that only theft or bribery amounting to a sum more than $48,500 would be prosecuted.

Romanians turned out in the streets of Bucharest, the capital, in the hundreds of thousands for six nights straight to demand that the decriminalizing statute be scrapped. Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu made such a pledge, but the demonstrators continued to demand urgent parliamentary action to change the law. When that did not occur immediately, they demanded the resignation of the government, only elected in December.

It may be that public intolerance of government corruption is spreading. The French public has responded to reports that Republican Party presidential candidate Francois Fillon, previously deemed the favorite to win the spring elections, had put his wife on the parliamentary payroll for years, without her doing any work. At the moment, French polls show far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in first place, ahead of Fillon, among the candidates for the presidency.

Americans, in spite of their consistently stagnant wages, have, in general, shown a high tolerance for lawmakers’ own augmenting of their fortunes while in office. At least half of those in Congress are millionaires, and the Cabinet nominated by President Trump is chock-full of the very rich. It is arguable that they will be more honest in office because they are already rich, but that may be hard for Trump’s “forgotten people,” working two or three jobs just to get by, to believe.


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