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It's not the money in politics, it's the money after politics

Stoller has a great post on some of the realities:

Most activists and political operatives are under a delusion about American politics, which goes as follows. Politicians will do *anything* to get reelected, and they will pander, beg, borrow, lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in office. It’s all about their job.

This is 100% wrong. The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important. What matters is post-election employment. It’s all about staying in the elite political class, which means being respected in a dense network of corporate-funded think tanks, high-powered law firms, banks, defense contractors, prestigious universities, and corporations. If you run a campaign based on populist themes, that’s a threat to your post-election employment prospects. This is why rising Democratic star and Newark Mayor Corey Booker reacted so strongly against criticism of private equity – he’s looking out for a potential client after his political career is over, or perhaps, during interludes between offices. ...

It isn’t the case that [former President Bill] Clinton is a billionaire, but it is the case that Clinton can, whenever he wants, make money as quickly and as easily as a billionaire. He is awash in cash, and cash is useful. Cash finances his lifestyle. Cash helped backstop his wife’s Presidential campaign when it was on the ropes.

And these speaking fees aren’t the only money Clinton got, it’s just the easiest cash to find because of disclosure laws.

... Erskine Bowles, former White House Chief of Staff, lost two Senate elections. But he’s on the board of Facebook and Morgan Stanley, as well as authoring the highly influential Simpson-Bowles plan to gut Social Security and Medicare. Tom Daschle, who lost a Senate race in 2004, is a millionaire who in large part crafted Obama’s health care plan. Former Senator Judd Gregg is now at Goldman Sachs. Current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made $12 million in between his stint at the Clinton White House which ended in 2000 and his election to Congress in 2002. Former Congressman Harold Ford, now at Morgan Stanley, is routinely on TV making political claims. Larry Summers is on the board of the high-flying start-up Square. Meanwhile, Russ Feingold, a Senator who did go after Wall Street, is a professor in the Midwest. Eliot Spitzer is a struggling TV host and writer.

In other words, Barack Obama and his franchise are emulating the Clinton’s, and are speaking not to voters, but to potential post-election patrons. That’s what their policy goals are organized around.

Best model I've encountered. While it is true that some of the players are "better" than others -- in the sense that real wages rose under Clinton, and, as individual persons of character, the Clintons are less likely to kick the underdog in the ribs while they're down for the sheer pleasure of it, unlike Bush and Obama -- they are all players in the game, those are the rules, and the rules have nothing to do with public purpose or responsiveness to the electorate.

Oh, and this means that the "progressive" idea that "money in politics" is the problem is wrong, wrong wrong: It's the money after politics that counts. That means that Occupy co-opters Move to Amend -- and I know this will come as a shock to you -- are wrong, wrong, wrong to: A snare and a delusion.

Think of it this way: Politicians at the elite level see elected office as a sort of unpaid internship. The real money comes later. So what the Move to Amend crowd wants is to make the conditions of internship more onerous. They're going to increase dependence on post-election employment, not decrease it. Jeebus, it's like jujitsu, isn't it? More than kabuki.

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reslez's picture
Submitted by reslez on

It's hard to see what sort of legislation -- or amendment -- could prevent ex-politicians from cashing in when they leave office.

Such tiresome aspirational bourgeois. Let's save them the trouble of selling out -- and only elect rich people.

The only other alternative I see is removing wealth from the wealthy to level the playing field. Taxes on rents, property, and exorbitant income.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Don't get me wrong, Eliot Spitzer seems like enough of a stand up guy that he'd be willing to belt out a verse of "Don't cry for me, Argentina" if you were to ask him to at last call. For the record, Wikipedia says:

>>>Spitzer was born on June 10, 1959 in the Bronx, the son of Anne (née Goldhaber), an English literature professor, and Bernard Spitzer, a real estate mogul.

>>>Bernard Spitzer (born 1924) is an American real estate developer and philanthropist in New York City who built several landmark buildings around the city including The Corinthian which was the largest individual apartment building in New York City when it was built. Spitzer is father of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. In 2008 he has an estimated net worth of $500 million.

>>>In the 1998 election, Spitzer defeated incumbent Republican Dennis Vacco by a slim margin to become New York State Attorney General. His campaign was financed by a controversial multi-million dollar loan from his father.

Spitzer might have been a real hero and a contender for a season but, then again, he's always been able to afford to play that role.

Submitted by lambert on

Now the sense of entitlement becomes a little more clear....