The following originally appeared in The Hill.
A shill is a person who helps another person or organization to sell their goods or services, without disclosing his or her close relationship with the seller. Coincidentally, the term dates back roughly to 1913, the same year Congress established the Federal Reserve System.
Last week, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan resurfaced to opine in the Financial Times about purported deficiencies of the new Wall Street reform law, which is aimed at reigning in reckless banking. Instead of owning up to the many failures that led to our global financial meltdown, Greenspan gushed with praise for the free-market system, insisting that regulators are incapable of monitoring private markets and regulations are impeding economic recovery.
Greenspan identified himself simply as the former Fed Chair. He didn’t point out that he has deep industry ties, including a consulting contract with Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund manager.
Under the cloak of responsible budgeting, Republicans aim to sneak a giveaway to Wall Street bankers through the House of Representatives. This irresponsible stealth attack on reform insults the millions of Americans still unemployed and evicted from their homes because of banking barbarians.
On March 5, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan introduced a sweeping plan for the federal budget, with cuts in programs from Medicare to food stamps. Wall Street banks, however, come out ahead in Ryan’s plan.
What the Wisconsin Republican calls “permanent bailout authority” is actually an effort to prevent bailouts — a mechanism that, however flawed, is intended to make industry foot the bill for any future failure. Ryan’s “bailout” language is a political talking point based on the advice of a Republican pollster. It does not stem from the contents of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Dodd-Frank authorizes regulators to seize failing firms and sell off their parts. We understand why bankers would be upset by this prospect. We don’t understand why it upsets a member of a Congress purporting to defend taxpayer money from, among other things, Wall Street bailouts.
Congress must not shill for the banking industry under the guise of balancing the budget.
Bartlett Naylor is financial policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch
Alec Baldwin helped introduce the Fair Elections Now Act on Capitol Hill
Talk about an idea whose time has come.
Today, the Fair Elections Now Act is being re-introduced. Actor Alec Baldwin, who was present at the bill’s introduction, told CNN it was a critical step toward “reducing the influence of corporate lobbyists and special interest money.”
Alec is right. The bill would help candidates remain free from corporate interests by providing public money for their campaigns if they raise a certain amount of small-dollar contributions from voters.
The grip that corporations have over our elections and our lawmakers is unprecedented, thanks in no small part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That’s the decision that gave corporations the green light to spend as much money as they want on elections.
What does that decision mean for you? It means that lawmakers are even more beholden to wealthy corporate interests — oil and coal companies, financial giants, agribusiness mega-companies and so forth — and even less likely to act in your interests. After all, those corporations are looking out for their bottom lines and have no problem rolling over citizens to boost profits. They want public policies that advance that goal. They give money to lawmakers so they can ask for favors later.