Wall Street WARZONE

America has “Lost Its Moral Compass:” Lawmakers, Lobbyists, Bankers … and Main Street Investors Too?

by Paul B Farrell, JD, PhD
| | 5/8/2010

The “blame game” grows: Nothing’s getting done … Congress is dysfunctional … no, it’s President Obama … or the GOP’s “Tea Party of No-No” … gridlock and filibuster threats frightening wussy Democrats … Goldman Sachs is a favorite target … and of course, the new villian, lobbyists. Matt Bai writing in a NYTimes, Laws For Sale, adds some interesting perspective, first noting how bad the lobbyists are, then shifting the blame to Congress. However, Bai may be missing the gigger picture, how American government has morphed from a democracy to ”corporate  anarchy” where it’s “every man-for-himself,” each special interest and their lobbyists are forced to fight in for their slice of the $1.5 trillion federal budget pie. But I get ahead of myself. Here’s Matt Bai’s insightful comments:

Plaintiffs’ lawyers must be holding their heads a little higher when they walk into P.T.A. meetings and neighborhood parties these days, knowing that corporate lobbyists have overtaken them as the most despised professionals in America. Lobbyists have never been especially popular … As a candidate, Barack Obama made a point of vowing to banish them from the White House. (This proved considerably harder to do than it was to say … In the past year, though, antilobbyist fervor has grown even more intense, as hope for a new governing era has given way to frustration with a divided capital and a dysfunctional Congress.

The outrage reached a fever pitch in January when the Supreme Court ruled that a Fortune 500 corporation enjoys the same First Amendment right to influence the political process as the guy who puts a yard sign on his lawn. Responding in The Nation and The Los Angeles Times,the Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig incited an online furor when he accused President Obama of betraying his fellow liberals by declining to confront the capital’s culture of corporate dependence. ‘Congress has developed a pathological dependence on campaign cash,’ Lessig wrote, blaming moneyed interests for knocking the public option out of the Democratic health care plan …

Bai adds specifics: Toyota’s lobbying bill of $25 million. How Microsoft and Dell spent millions to preserve a $15.5 billion tax loophole. And elsewhere we learned that Wall Street spent $400 million on lobbyists to kill financial reforms. How the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry spend even more killing healthcare reforms. But Bai’s main point is about how individual Senators and Congressional Representatives have lost their moral compass: “The truth is that anyone who spends any significant time in the political world knows that corporate money, raised and leveraged by lobbyists, is perverting any notion of good policymaking, as surely as ice dancing perverts the idea of sport.” Bai concludes …

The problem with Lessig’s indictment and others like it isn’t that they are too hard on lobbyists who try to influence the system. It’s that they’re too easy on the politicians who cave to the pressure. … The flaw here is that if our senators and congressmen really wanted to be ideal public servants, they wouldn’t need us to protect them from their corporate patrons. Rather, they would simply do what’s right and face the consequences. … Is it really so outside the bounds of human nature to expect congressmen to serve the interests of the voters, even when their own ­re-elections are in jeopardy? The political system is imperiled mostly because too many of our politicians just can’t seem to imagine any worse fate in life than losing an election. … a lot of lawmakers still cling to their seats at any cost to conscience or to constituency, as if it were the only job they could ever see themselves holding …

So the bigger picture is not just the blame game, pinning the problem on either lobbyists or Congress. It’s not even the loss of democracy and the rise of America’s new “Corporate Anarchy.”  The real problem is that Americans have “lost their moral compass,” and are sinking deep into a narcissistic soul-sickness.

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