In her Nov. 18 op-ed “How Congress Occupied Wall Street,” Sarah Palin identifies a deep-seated problem in American political history: how to make representatives beholden to the people’s interest instead of their own.
While her policy proposals are positive toward achieving this goal, they assume voters penalize members of Congress for financial shenanigans. If that were the case, Charles Rangel and others would no longer be serving.
A better approach would be to remove the very impetus for self-enrichment, unless it equally benefits the country as a whole. I propose that all members of Congress, the president, the cabinet to the undersecretary level, and any federal judge should by law be permitted to hold one asset class: U.S. Treasury bonds.
Upon assuming office, all covered personnel would have 30 days to liquidate all financial holdings (except for a primary residence) and purchase Treasurys; I would grant a 10-year window to pay any resulting capital gains.
No longer would politicians gamble away our future with reckless deficits, avoiding hard decisions on spending and taxation; after all, their very livelihoods would be at stake.
Despite the flak Sarah Palin takes from the left for being a “political lightweight,” her Nov. 18 comments demonstrate that she is far more insightful and astute than the collective body of today’s Congress. How can anyone in or associated with Congress defend insider trading for themselves while imposing stiff penalties for the same behavior on their constituents? The only thing I would add to Ms. Palin’s recommendations would be to make it also illegal for members of Congress and their staffs to pass on information gained from their committee assignments to anyone, in Congress or out. Her recommendations should be implemented immediately.
Unfortunately, the solutions prescribed by Ms. Palin must be accomplished by—Congress. The very body passing all the self-serving legislation, Congress, is the very body expected to recall it. Good ol’ James Madison wrote (The Federalist Papers, No. 57), “The House of Representatives . . . can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as the great mass of society.” This wasn’t accepted and will never be. The majority of the members of Congress look out for themselves first, their party second and the rest of us later, if at all, and certainly after the lobbyists. Can this ever be changed? Yes. Will it ever be changed? No. The idea of selfless citizen-politicians is dead and buried with the founders of our country and the authors of the Constitution. As I remember it, the Republicans in the Contract with America indicated, if not pledged, to pass term limits—until they became the majority, then: “Oops, our bad, we didn’t mean it.” Power is too valued a prize for ordinary mortals to give it up.
Ms. Palin recalls Mark Twain’s sardonic observation that the only “distinctly native American criminal class [is] Congress.” She urges sudden and swift reform of its legally privileged fiduciary, financial criminal practices—which seem to be legion—without considering another perspective. Twain also remarked that if your congressman returns to run for re-election after two years in Washington, but is not already a made millionaire, he is too stupid to get your vote.
Modern English & American Literature