The Other Campaign Finance Problem

November 2nd, 2010at 07:26am Posted by Eli

Technically speaking, it’s not actually campaign finance, but it’s a key part of the whole corrupt system of skewed incentives that has made our government a wholly-owned corporate subsidiary:

Why would members of Congress be prepared to take a vote that is both bad on policy grounds and also could hurt their own political survival? Erskine Bowles is a large part of the answer. Bowles is an unsuccessful politician, having twice lost in runs for the Senate in North Carolina.

Yet, he is very successful financially. He pockets $335,000 a year as a director of Morgan Stanley, one of the huge Wall Street banks that was rescued by taxpayer dollars in the fall of 2008. He likely pockets a similar sum from sitting as a director of GM, another company rescued by the government.

This means that Bowles pockets close to $700,000 annually (@600 monthly Social Security checks) from attending eight to twelve meetings a year. This must look like a pretty attractive deal to current members of Congress. In other words, the message Bowles is sending members of Congress is that if you betray your constituents and vote to undermine Social Security, you will be amply rewarded even if the voters give you the boot.

For this reason, Bowles should be a very scary figure to supporters of Social Security. By example, he is telling our elected representatives of Congress that they need not worry about either good policy or their voters’ wishes. Unfortunately, many members of Congress may find Bowles career to be an attractive route to follow.

This scares me at least as much as the obscene quantities of corporate money sloshing around in the system, an it’s even harder to regulate.  Sure, you can impose restrictions on politicians becoming lobbyists immediately after they leave office, but just how much can you legally restrict how (or how well) they make a living?

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Social Security


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