Author Topic: Robert Reich: The End of the Establishment?  (Read 605 times)

Offline imchills

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Robert Reich: The End of the Establishment?
« on: November 11, 2016, 01:51:41 pm »
Step back from the campaign fray for just a moment and consider the enormity of what’s already occurred.

A 74-year-old Jew from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, who wasn’t even a Democrat until recently, has come within a whisker of beating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus, routed her in the New Hampshire primary, and garnered over 47 percent of the caucus-goers in Nevada, of all places.

Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability.

And a 69-year-old billionaire who has never held elective office or had anything to do with the Republican Party has taken a commanding lead in the Republican primaries.

Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability. It’s a rebellion against the establishment.

The question is why the establishment has been so slow to see this. A year ago—which now seems like an eternity—it proclaimed Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush shoe-ins.

Both had all the advantages—deep bases of funders, well-established networks of political insiders, experienced political advisors, all the name recognition you could want.

But even now that Bush is out and Hillary is still leading but vulnerable, the establishment still doesn’t see what’s occurred. They explain everything by pointing to weaknesses: Bush, they now say, “never connected” and Hillary “has a trust problem.”

A respected political insider recently told me most Americans are largely content. “The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years. The problem has been the major candidates themselves.”

I beg to differ.

Economic indicators may be up but they don’t reflect the economic insecurity most Americans still feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience.

Nor do the major indicators show the linkages Americans see between wealth and power, crony capitalism, declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and a billionaire class that’s turning our democracy into an oligarchy.

Median family income lower now than it was sixteen years ago, adjusted for inflation.

Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to top.

These gains have translated into political power to rig the system with bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, trade deals, and increasing market power—all of which have further pushed down wages pulled up profits.

So far in the 2016 election, the richest 400 Americans have accounted for over a third of all campaign contributions.

Those at the very top of the top have rigged the system even more thoroughly. Since 1995, the average income tax rate for the 400 top-earning Americans has plummeted from 30 percent to 17 percent.

Wealth, power, and crony capitalism fit together. So far in the 2016 election, the richest 400 Americans have accounted for over a third of all campaign contributions.

Americans know a takeover has occurred and they blame the establishment for it.

There’s no official definition of the “establishment” but it presumably includes all of the people and institutions that have wielded significant power over the American political economy, and are therefore deemed complicit.

At its core are the major corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; the billionaires who invest directly in politics; and the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers.

Arrayed around this core are the deniers and apologists—those who attribute what’s happened to “neutral market forces,” or say the system can’t be changed, or who urge that any reform be small and incremental.

The establishment doesn’t get that most Americans couldn’t care less about economic growth

Some Americans are rebelling against all this by supporting an authoritarian demagogue who wants to fortify America against foreigners as well as foreign-made goods. Others are rebelling by joining a so-called “political revolution.”
The establishment is having conniptions. They call Trump whacky and Sanders irresponsible. They charge that Trump’s isolationism and Bernie’s ambitious government programs will stymie economic growth.

The establishment doesn’t get that most Americans couldn’t care less about economic growth because for years they’ve got few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens in the forms of lost jobs and lower wages.
Most people are more concerned about economic security and a fair chance to make it.

The establishment doesn’t see what’s happening because it has cut itself off from the lives of most Americans. It also doesn’t wish to understand, because that would mean acknowledging its role in bringing all this on.

Yet regardless of the political fates of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the rebellion against the establishment will continue.

Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.

Offline Battle

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Re: Robert Reich: The End of the Establishment?
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2019, 07:38:12 am »
Monday, 24th June 2019
Craig bill would ban former members of Congress from lobbying
by Gabe Schneider

Rep. Angie Craig said that after she leaves Congress, she’s never going to become a lobbyist. And if she has her way, neither will any other member.

On Friday, Craig introduced the Halt Unchecked Member Benefits with Lobbying Elimination  — or HUMBLE — Act.

The bill is a grab bag of anti-corruption and accountability reforms:

It would ban members from holding individual stock, ban them from purchasing first-class airline tickets with office travel expenses, ban former members of Congress from using congressional facilities, and perhaps most critically, ban members from becoming lobbyists.

“At the end of the day, the only influence I want is the influence I have when doing town halls,” Craig said in an interview.

“The only influence I want are from the panels that I host back in the Second Congressional District, where we have advocates, and patients and doctors talking about the cost of prescription drugs.”

Close to two-thirds of recently retired or defeated members from the 115th Congress now work as lobbyists, according to a report by accountability organization Public Citizen.

A few might be familiar:

Erik Paulsen, barely a year out of Congress, is currently lobbying with the Pass USMCA Coalition.

And he’s doing so alongside Joe Crowley, the former ranking Democrat who was defeated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Craig’s advocacy for government reform isn’t limited to just this bill.

She worked to pass an amendment for H.R.1, the House’s large transparency and government reform package, that would ban House members from serving on corporate boards.

Craig’s ideas are popular among her colleagues.

The HUMBLE Act is full of reforms that have been individually proposed by other members.

Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio also want to ban members from buying individual securities.

And Republican Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia also introduced legislation in January to ban members from taking first-class fights.

One component of Craig’s bill seems to take things a step further.

Former members who are registered lobbyists were banned from using certain House facilities in 2006.

But Craig’s bill would ban all former member of Congress from using House athletic facilities, parking spaces and other areas where they could potentially interact with their former colleagues.

The key piece of reform in Craig’s bill, a lifetime ban on lobbying or former members, has gained the most traction in recent months from a variety of strange allies.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez have floated writing a bill together to get this done.

And Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — both running for president on starkly differently platforms — have made a similar suggestions.

So have Republican Sens. Rick Scott, of Florida, and Mike Braun, of Indiana.

Current law only requires a one year “cool-off” period before former members and certain congressional employees lobby.

While lifetime lobbying bans may be popular, public accountability experts believe that this kind of legislation could open up a lot of problems.

While a ban on lobbying would impact those who register and are officially classified lobbyists, former members who do lobbying-related activities could get by.

“It doesn’t go far enough in the sense that it doesn’t cover a lot of lobbying related activities,” said Lee Drutman, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkin and the senior fellow in the political reform program at New America.

“Strategic advising, consulting stuff  that you or I would consider lobbying, it just encourages former members to do the kinds of stuff that is less transparent and is more like shadow lobbying.”

In an interview with Vox, Dan Auble, senior researcher at OpenSecrets, had the same concern.

“They still have a lot of opportunity to point their clients and the firms they work for toward which levers in Congress to pull without actually having to make the calls themselves, which absolves them of the requirement to file,” he said.

H.R. 1 would make these registration requirements more stringent.

But while it has passed the House, it looks unlikely that it will get a Senate vote.

That means that if Craig’s HUMBLE Act were to be signed into law now, it would be signed without accounting for lobbying-adjacent activities that are popular among former members and don’t require federal registration.

Apart from H.R.1, Drutman said these types of reforms only tackle the symptom, not the problem.

He said that he believes the real issue isn’t banning lobbying or preventing pay raises.

It’s that lobbying firms exhibit too much influence because they can hire up underpaid congressional staffers with expertise and have the ability to write policy in the first place.

Drutman said that members, including Craig, should focus on the issue holistically.

“If she’s serious she should increase funding for the legislative branch, pay staffers more, and hire more staffers so that Congress is not dependent on private lobbyists,” Drutman said.

“That would suggest that she’s serious. This is just pure symbolic minor league stuff.”

For her part, Craig said that in order to get her job done for constituents, she thinks people need to trust Congress.

“I just think it would help restore the American people’s confidence in Congress, if we didn’t become lobbyists, if we didn’t have access to other members after we leave, if we didn’t hold individual stocks,” she said.

“The American people and Minnesotans ought to know that when they send us here we’re here for one reason only. And that’s to serve our community and our neighbors.”

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