Watch What We Do and Not What We Say

in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, i was glued to the television watching the watergate hearings and devouring all the newspaper coverage. so when i had to write a paper for my high school civics class at the end of my senior year, i re-read the transcripts from the hearings and wrote twice as many pages as the assignment required. the title was: “watch what we do and not what we say”.

it probably goes without saying that this should always be the rule when it comes to elected officials.

remember the big news story about the stop trading on congressional knowledge (stock) act? that was the law that made it illegal for congress and their relatives to make stock trades based on insider information gained from congressional activity. you know, the same law that the rest of us are subject to. the same law the sec used to toss a hardened criminal like martha stewart in the pokey. the very same law that it seems like a giant duh! that members of congress should be subjected to. that law got passed with a lot of self-congratulation and fan-fare. and the people felt good.

so now every member of congress and their relatives has to file a log of all trades in excess of $1,000. further, the records of these trades are listed in an on-line database so that everyone will be able to see and relate trading to committee meetings or hearings, etc. and draw a direct link between member’s activities and how that might translate into making a profit on insider knowledge.

or, maybe not.

actually, definitely not. remember all the endless arguing and media blitz about the debit ceiling? how about healthcare reform? the budget? gun regulations? the repeal of the portion of the stock act that makes the reporting transparent and relatable to congressional activity? yes, yes, yes, yes…. er, um, noooooo.

there was not one dissenting voice in this vote. portions of the stock act were quietly repealed. unanimously. it took 10 seconds in the senate and 14 seconds in the house. and the president signed it quickly and quietly.

before you get too worked up, congressional members and staffers who earn more than $119,554 a year still have to report trades in excess of $1,000, but none of that would be posted on-line. instead, paper forms will be warehoused in washington d.c. where the public can search them by hand. from big boxes that are filed in huge rooms that it takes lots of people to manage. no computerized records. same trick that is being used with gun registrations. if you can’t stop the train, just pile up a whole bunch of junk on the tracks. because making the stock transactions of people in congress too easily constitutes a risk of terrorism, or so the reason was given. my guess is that the potential terrorists are constituents. just my hunch.

so you know all that rhetoric about people dependent on the government? or greedy public workers with their fat cat pensions that are bankrupting this nation? or special classes that are protected by the government in ways like, oh i don’t know… voting? yeah, we’re supposed to be disdainful of those people.

some of the very same “privileges” that the rest of us are supposedly receiving are business as usual among members of congress. but they’re not considered privileges, they’re just considered necessities. or what elected officials are entitled to. or what is necessary to keep good members of congress happy, you know, like what giant bonuses were designed to do for wall street firms who employed all of those brilliant fund managers that prevented a major meltdown of the financial system… oh, wait a minute.

back to congress. read about the perks you don’t have at your disposal but that you’re paying for here.

so, after all of this i was thinking about my senior civics paper and the watergate hearings and how forty years have passed since i wrote that paper. and how some things still remain true.

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