Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Congress Has Occupied Wall Street

These are excerpts of an opinion piece that appeared in a recent edition of The Wall Street Journal. It was written by somebody with whom I seldom agree, but this is one of those rare exceptions. I'll provide a link at the end of this message that will reveal the author of these comments. It may surprise you as well.

“How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires? How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? 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.”

“The money-making opportunities for politicians are myriad … 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.”

“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.”

“The moment you threaten to strip politicians of their legal graft, they'll moan that they can't govern effectively without it. Perhaps they'll gravitate toward reform, but often their idea of reform is to limit the right of "We the people" to exercise our freedom of speech in the political process.”

“… the only solution to entrenched corruption is sudden and relentless reform. Sudden because our permanent political class is adept at changing the subject to divert public attention—and we can no longer afford to be indifferent to this system of graft when our country is going bankrupt. Reform must be relentless because fighting corruption is like a game of whack-a-mole. You knock it down in one area only to see it pop up in another.”

“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 whistle blower, 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.”

“This call for real reform must transcend political parties. The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this.”

“...Washington politicians have been "Occupying Wall Street" long before anyone pitched a tent in Zuccotti Park.”

If we had no other reasons (and we have plenty more), these are enough that we should demand an immediate and entire housecleaning of Congress and get people in office who are honestly and sincerely committed to a total reform of our political and economic systems for the good of our country – and who will live up to those commitments.

(For the entire text of the article and the name of the author, click here I am sure you will be surprised!)

Coming Up: Big Problems with Our Two-Party System

Elections :Heart of Democracy or Height of Hypocrisy?

In Presidential Debates, Duopoly Reigns

Presidential Debates: Fraud or Farce?

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