November 23, 2011

Our corrupt Congress

60 Minutes blows the lid off how members of Congress are legally allowed to use the inside knowledge to which only they have access to make money on the stock market and in other deals. This is why so many of them leave Congress as multi-millionaires.

How is this legal? Because in making the insider trading laws, Congress exempted themselves from the laws that apply to everyone else.

Notice how much bipartisan harmony there is on matters like this?

Even disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who went to prison for his role in political corruption, says in an interview about his new book Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist that "I think the great tragedy in American politics is what is legal, not what is illegal."

In the second part of the interview he talks about what needs to be done to clean up the bipartisan corrupt rot that has set in, and which he once took full advantage of. He says the so-called reforms that Congress enacts are a joke. He provides a good way to address the problem, which is the list of reforms that he, as a lobbyist, would have hated to see enacted because they would have made his job so much harder.

First, he says that once you are in Congress or are a staffer on Capitol Hill, you should face a permanent ban on working as a lobbyist. (Elsewhere, he described how lobbyists get our 'public' servants working for them. Once they see a Congressperson or a Congressional staffer who could be helpful to them and who is also hardworking and efficient, they tell him or her, "We would like you to consider working for us once you leave here." That person usually is hooked and then willing to work on their behalf on legislation even while still working for Congress so that they don't jeopardize their chances of a lucrative career if they should leave or be forced out of government.) Second, he says that, "If you're a lobbyist or you hire a lobbyist or you're at the public trough getting government grants or contracts or whatever, you can't give one dollar politically, federally. If you make the choice yourself to do that, then you have given up the choice to give politically." Third, he recommends term limits so that lobbyists would be forced to go through the tedious process of cultivating and eventually 'buying' new members on a regular basis. Finally, Congress should not be allowed to exempt themselves from the laws they pass for others.

I think that while many people suspect that Congress is corrupt, they do not realize how deeply the rot has spread. We are not talking about a few bad apples here and there, though once in a while there will be an uproar over one or two egregious examples of corruption and someone will face a ritual punishment. Those are the equivalents of the sacrificial virgins of earlier times, designed to protest the others from wrath. In this case, what they fear is the wrath of the people not of gods.


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What we are seeing in the USA is a prime example of Normalcy Bias, there are lot of examples of how the economy is struggling, rampant corruptness, unfairness...etc. However, only a very few of us are doing or saying anything. We know something is wrong in this country but trying to stand and say something is difficult, much less trying to fix it.

Normalcy bias can happen on a small scale (Penn State campus) and/or on a grand scale (Problems faced on a national level).

Mano, what would you suggest the common people do???

Interesting Article on Normalcy bias I came across:

Posted by Case Student on November 23, 2011 01:04 PM

The oligarchy has all the money and the media by which to exert power over Congress and the administration.

All ordinary people have are numbers. It is only when people use their numbers to overwhelm the government/oligarchic axis and make them frightened that they will change. This does not have to involve violence. In fact, it is better to be non-violent both on moral and tactical grounds, because then you can attract more people to your cause. This is what is happening in Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and with the Occupy movement.

But it will take sustained pressure.

Posted by Mano on November 23, 2011 10:19 PM

Hard-hitting reporting from CBS? What am I missing here?

Oh, yes. If everyone's mad at the politicians, they're not mad at the corporations and the banks. Disturbing though this corruption is, this is essentially another distraction from the larger problem. The Stock Act discussed in the piece could be passed tomorrow, and most of the calamities we bemoan on this blog would not go away.

Moreover, the ability of legislators to engage in insider trading, while it obviously creates conflicts of interest, would also exist if Congress were to enact better laws. For example, a genuine cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions would clearly affect numerous stocks in the energy sector, presenting various opportunities for profit. (Indeed, conservative pundits love to blame Al Gore for exactly this sin.) But the legislative outcome for the nation would be far better. For trading purposes, all that matters is movement, whether up or down. It's not the insider trading that's blocking meaningful social progress.

Nice try, CBS. Very nice try. Your corporate masters are pleased.

Posted by Richard Frost on November 23, 2011 10:39 PM

I am surprised that you seem surprised. Not the details, but the concept. The word lobbyists should give you a clue. We have heard of politicians or ex-politicians being partial to their companies. Contributors getting favoured treatment. So why make a fuss about insider trading? Sad to say, America is rotten to the core. Nothing surprises me anymore. Take Obama, he has reneged on virtually every campaign promise, but is likely to get elected again. Wikileaks came and went. Unless the oligarchy screws up very badly the OWS too will also come and go. All the suggestions in Jack Abramoff's interview are merely band aid. In any case, why is he talking now? He can no longer engage in a profession so lucrative. He hopes that the book will become a bestseller. Do some of you think he has reformed? Ha, Ha. Is America beyond redemption? No. Are Americans beyond redemption? Maybe.

Posted by Manik on November 24, 2011 08:11 PM