by Whitney Pitcher
Last week, I read Peter Schweizer’s insightful book, Throw Them All Out. I found it to be very well researched and well written. It is a fascinatingly frustrating read, in a righteous indignation kind of way. The book is a reminder that we need to evaluate politics vertically (top to bottom) a lot more often rather than just approaching politics on the horizontal spectrum of left to right ideology. Schweizer further reveals that those at the top of the political food chain are politicians themselves and their cronies, and we everyday Americans are subject to the rules these individual craft for everyone but themselves. Unlike intellectually dishonest researchers who often “forget” that correlation does not equal causation, Schweizer lays out the facts–the legislation, stock trades, associations, and timing– of the unethical behavior of Congress, the White House, and their cronies and allows the reader to make the judgement for himself or herself. He’s the prosecutor; the reader is the juror.
Throw Them All Out is comprised of three parts–discussion of Congressional transgressions, the gains made by politicians’ cronies, and how Schweizer’s feels these problems can best be addressed. Much of the Congressional behavior Schweizer discusses was highlighted in the recent 60 Minutes segment. Schweizer goes into detail on Congresswoman Pelosi’s insider trading on Bank of America IPOs and how earmarks for light rail projects would raise the value of nearby property that she owned. Isn’t it interesting that if you had the letters P-E-L-O-S-I, you could spell both “IPO” and “lies” on a Scrabble board? Schweizer hits at both parties–from former Republican Congressman Dennis Hastert and Democrat Heath Shuler on their land deals and the benefit they received from legislation. Schweizer also presents an excellent expose on how Congress trades health insurance and drug company stock based upon early knowledge of whether or not healthcare legislation is posed to pass. Isn’t it any wonder how Congress is more concerned with Americans health insurance and drug coverage specifically than they are with Americans health?
Schweizer continues in part two focusing in large part on two of Obama’s wealthiest cronies– George Soros and Warren Buffett. Schweizer highlighted the trend of hedge fund managers’ growing closeness with the political arena. Such associations likely contributed to Soros’ excellent stock picks that somehow seemed to be many of the same companies who received government grants. Buffett’s modus operandi seems to be feigning populist outrage only to greatly gain from legislation like the TARP bailout. Schweizer also highlights how 80% of green energy loans went to companies associated with President Obama’s top donors. In reality, of course, with companies like Solyndra receiving hundreds of millions of dollars, all of this crony capitalism amounts to taxpayer dollars swirling the water efficient “green” toilet?
Schweizer closes the book with a few chapters that seem like a cross between the Federalist Papers and Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society. He mixes both the thoughts and visions from the Founders on ethical government with the anti-Elite message Sowell pounded home in his book. He closes the book by offering some reforms to help solve this massive political problem. These reforms fall right in line with the reforms Governor Palin offered in her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed:
What are the solutions? We need reform that provides real transparency. Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act like everyone else. We need more detailed financial disclosure reports, and members should submit reports much more often than once a year. All stock transactions above $5,000 should be disclosed within five days.
We need equality under the law. From now on, laws that apply to the private sector must apply to Congress, including whistleblower, conflict-of-interest and insider-trading laws. Trading on nonpublic government information should be illegal both for those who pass on the information and those who trade on it. (This should close the loophole of the blind trusts that aren’t really blind because they’re managed by family members or friends.)
No more sweetheart land deals with campaign contributors. No gifts of IPO shares. No trading of stocks related to committee assignments. No earmarks where the congressman receives a direct benefit. No accepting campaign contributions while Congress is in session. No lobbyists as family members, and no transitioning into a lobbying career after leaving office. No more revolving door, ever.
Recently, Governor Palin suggested that all presidential candidates read Schweizer’s book. It would do us all well to read it also. It provides us with a glimpse into the swamp of Washington inhabited by both parties and offers proposals to drain that swamp.At less than 200 pages complete with references and tables, Schweizer’s book is not heavy on opinions or words. It is a concise, yet thorough investigation of the political class. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. You might want to read Schweizer’s book with a pair of sunglasses.