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Nov 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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