How to Really Hit Back at Wall Street
Editor’s Note: Americans are understandably outraged over Wall Street’s refusal to accept that its days of wine, roses, pricy-commodes, multi-million-dollar bonuses, extravagant parties, ultra-exclusive vacations, et cetera must finally end.
In this guest essay, former congressional staffer Brent Budowsky suggests that the old ways of Wall Street banks greasing the palms of Washington politicians must end, too – and that it may be time to rehabilitate “Wall Street sheriff” Eliot Spitzer:
Let’s ban political contributions to any candidate, of any party, for any office by any company that receives bailout money, until the money is paid back in full.
Taxpayer money should not be used to pay for political donations designed to influence how the taxpayer money is spent. It is ridiculous for political leaders to take political campaign donations with one hand while they hand out taxpayer dollars to the donors with the other.
And let’s bring back Eliot Spitzer to a position in the government involving reform of our financial system.
Sure, Spitzer made a whopper of a mistake. But on the great issue of today and tomorrow, fixing the problems of our financial system, the world should have listened to Eliot Spitzer. He was brilliant, he was visionary, he was ahead of his time, and he was damned right.
Enough of these lame pseudo-reforms that keep good people out of government but do virtually nothing to reform the system — and, in some cases, make the system worse.
Want a reform that will have immediate impact? Ban political contributions from companies that receive bailout money until the money is paid back.
I suspect the Supreme Court will find this a constitutional limit on how federal aid is spent. But just in case, here is Plan B: Elected officials can state today that with or without a new law, they will not accept campaign money from bailed-out firms.
The very idea that taxpayer money would be so abused — i.e., by using it to influence the terms of distribution of taxpayer money — is absurd.
The very idea that last year, as it was first being bailed out, AIG was dishing out the dough, while negotiations for the bailout were under way, to Obama, to McCain and to leading members of both parties in Congress, is totally ridiculous.
Let me emphasize that if this ban goes into effect, every company should have every right to lobby every day. The problem is not the lobbying. Lobbying with information and perspective is valuable, including from Wall Street and banks.
The problem is the money, the buying and selling of influence and (let’s be honest) the buying and selling of votes.
Let’s break the money link. Let’s enact the one reform that really matters.
Regarding Eliot Spitzer, I think everyone deserves a pass for one huge blunder. Including Spitzer.
And for any Republicans who may object, including a certain sitting Republican senator with a similar problem, let’s give him a pass, too, and let the voters of his state decide.
Spitzer was light years ahead of his time, and for being right, he was demeaned and ridiculed and attacked by many on Wall Street. He was attacked, too, by their shills in the media, including the network that Jon Stewart so brilliantly dissected, which demeaned Spitzer by the hour, not for the problem that led to his removal, but for his attempts to reform the markets and reveal wrongdoing.
In terms of knowledge, understanding, grasp of the issues and the guts to fight for average Americans, Eliot Spitzer is the man, and should be brought back into government to help fix the financial system he presciently warned about when almost all others went along with what was so disastrously wrong.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Rep. Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. He can be read in The Hill newspaper, where he is a columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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