Jeff Spector, Sarah Palin and Occupy Wall Street

November 18, 2011

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.

Crotaphytus collaris reptile
 

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.

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

 

Oh, otherwise:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204323904577040373463191222.html

What other reforms would you like to see?  Does it matter who pushes them?

15 Responses to Jeff Spector, Sarah Palin and Occupy Wall Street

  1. Stephen Marsh on November 18, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    On the question about college that Jeff asked: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203611404577046071107794292.html

    The real numbers, pro and con, with adjustments.

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  2. Geoff - A on November 18, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    I don’t believe any of that is legal for politicians in Australia. They are required to disclose fully their financial activities and, conflicts of interest are unaceptable, and become political issues. Many divest themselves while in office.

    But then our banks are also more regulated, and none of them have failed.

    It is possible to regulate politicians and banks and still have a vibrant economy and democracy.

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  3. Douglas on November 18, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    Oh, NOW you’ve noticed how corrupt our Government, but especially the Congress, has become? Do ask yourself this one as well (I’m never resolved it to my satisfaction)…how in the world did one William Jefferson Blythe and Hillary Rodham Clinton, given that he was one of the lowest paid Governors in the US (his salary did not exceed $35K/year during his tenure in AR, even little ol’ me out-earned him at the time!), amass enough that upon the completion of his Presidency the Clintons were able to buy a rather nice estate in the Hamptons? Are Bill and Hillary such astute portfolio managers that one would wonder why they ever considered politics at all?
    And to think Richard “E” Nixon (as the fictional Archie Bunker described our 37th president) had to give an impassioned speech in the 1952 campaign about a mutt and why he and his family would keep it.
    I’ve looked for a dissertation on how many members of Congress since 1970 have filed bankruptcy, been disbarred, convicted of felonies, gotten divorced, sought treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse, kited cheques, and other hallmarks of being “fine citizens”. These maladies are rife on both sides of the aisle.

    Olive Oyl, we need you….

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xd852v_popeye-the-sailor-olive-oyl-for-pre_shortfilms

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  4. Stephen Marsh on November 18, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    Douglas — “Oh, NOW you’ve noticed how corrupt our Government” … err, I’ve written on capture a number of times. Have you been missing economics posts and how some of them relate to the problems of would be utopias and Zion?

    Geoff — exactly! ;)

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  5. Douglas on November 19, 2011 at 12:23 AM

    #4 – Pardon my sarcasm. Perhaps I’m just jaded with regard to politics, but the corrupting influence of money and it’s true objective, power, would seem to be obvious. Hence why I champion Libertarianism, but am realistic enough to know that those running the “District of Criminals” (a fave quip from the “G-Man”, Gordon Liddy) won’t go quietly and won’t let a little thing like an election get in the way.
    At least Stalin was forthright enough to make two observations: (1) It’s not he that votes that counts, it’s he that counts the vote, what counts.. (2) How many (army) divisions does the Pope have?

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  6. Ray on November 19, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    “How many (army) divisions does the Pope have?”

    For hundreds of years, the Pope was the most powerful political and military figure in the Western world – and for a specific time period (the Inquisition is rather famous), physical coercion was the norm to enforce uniformity even down to the individual level.

    Just saying.

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  7. Stephen Marsh on November 19, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Thanks Ray, for saving me from having to state that.

    I’ll note that all of Stalin’s divisions did not save him when Khrushchev decided to strangle him.

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  8. Jeff Spector on November 19, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Not sure I like being associated with Sarah Palin in the same title….

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  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 19, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Jeff, that is just where the truth takes you some times.

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  10. FireTag on November 19, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Geoff:

    “It is possible to regulate politicians and banks and still have a vibrant economy and democracy.”

    Yeah, but not AFTER the legislators and regulators in any arena (not even primarily the banks) are already corrupted). You first have to throw out the corrupt legislators (including at the state and local level from which their experienced replacements would normally be drawn). And that’s going to take awhile. The corruption has spread pretty widely.

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  11. Jeff Spector on November 19, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    Stephen,

    “Jeff, that is just where the truth takes you some times.’

    Well, it is not like my writer and her writer collaborated.

    And besides, she is a huge hypocrite for calling anyone out for making money off their position which is all she has done the last 4 years.

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  12. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 21, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    Ok, I had to hit “like” on your comment Jeff …

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  13. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 21, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    Except, of course, Sarah Palin has not made money off her position by selling out third parties. I think that is a significant difference.

    It is the difference between a pundit charging for being a pundit and a pundit who is taking payments under the table.

    Or a politician tanking bribes and one who gets a job in academia or pundit land after retirement.

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  14. Jeff Spector on November 21, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Well, she has parlayed a payday out of maybe being a candidate for President, doing a bus tour, a book, a TV reality show, etc…..

    That is a bit more than being a TV pundit. She clearly has profited off her time in public office and the VP candidate, even though she was apparently not qualified for either.

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