Today brought a great confluence. Jeff Spector, Sarah Palin and Occupy Wall street all agreed.
Quick, guess who said:
How do politicians’ stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers’? … Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.
Accepting sweetheart gifts of IPO stock from companies seeking to influence legislation, practicing insider trading with nonpublic government information, earmarking projects that benefit personal real estate holdings, and even subtly extorting campaign donations through the threat of legislation unfavorable to an industry. The list goes on and on, and it’s sickening.
Astonishingly, none of this is technically illegal, at least not for Congress. Members of Congress exempt themselves from the laws they apply to the rest of us. That includes laws that protect whistleblowers (nothing prevents members of Congress from retaliating against staffers who shine light on corruption) and Freedom of Information Act requests (it’s easier to get classified documents from the CIA than from a congressional office).
The corruption isn’t confined to one political party or just a few bad apples. It’s an endemic problem encompassing leadership on both sides of the aisle. It’s an entire system of public servants feathering their own nests.
That was Sarah Palin, but it could have come from any Tea Party meeting or any discussion with someone at an Occupy Wall Street protest.
Jeff just asked if it was just him, or if it really was true. 😉 Jeff — it probably is true.
I’m not going to get into the right to peaceably assemble, or the right of regulators to limit time, place and manner (unless you paid me, at work, then I’d be glad to get into the issues), or the many ways that President Dwight Eisenhower right about the Military-Industrial complex.
Instead, we are having a growing realization that:
the solutions? We need reform that provides real transparency. Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act like everyone else. We need more detailed financial disclosure reports, and members should submit reports much more often than once a year. All stock transactions above $5,000 should be disclosed within five days.
We need equality under the law. From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress, including whistleblower, conflict-of-interest and insider-trading laws. Trading on nonpublic government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it. (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren’t really blind because they’re managed by family members or friends.)
No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors. No gifts of IPO shares. No trading of stocks related to committee assignments. No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit. No accepting campaign contributions while Congress is in session. No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.
What other reforms would you like to see? Does it matter who pushes them?