Saturday, October 10, 2009


Democracy has been bought out.  Too many people have too much power.  And too few people have enough money to rent that power when they want to use it.

The people who have the power have written all of the rules that big money donors can use to buy access.  They have written all of the rules about how they can receive and use that money.  The only thing restraining them is public perception.  Whenever a legislator gets caught a big embarrassing spectacle is made, and they get slapped on the wrists by their peers.  But they almost never even give the money back.  And whatever legislative favor was bought is not returned.

Checks and Balances and Separation of Power have failed.  Both of those principles were based upon an assumption that no one would have enough money to buy off everyone in power.

This Wall Street Journal article has a detailed graph that breaks down all of the campaign contributions made to the House Financial Services Committee by the mortgage and banking industry in an attempt to get a rule changed in their favor earlier this year.  If this is all of it, then it cost them about $300k in bribes to buy this rule change.  Certainly there was overhead--lawyers and lobbyists don't work cheaply.  But I'll bet this isn't all of the contributions.

I'm not a big fan of attack politics.  And I'm going to try to keep my criticisms pointed at the system, instead of at individuals.  This time the whole committee got caught, including lots of members of both parties.  Which is precisely my point.  This isn't just a problem in this party or that party.  This isn't just the party in power or the one out of power.  This is systemic.  As long as there is this much power concentrated in this small number of hands we will always have this problem.

hat tip: Barry Ritholtz

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