Problems of a Feather

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Oh, this is awesome. Larry Abrams, who has written for public radio for many years, gets to the heart of the vicious circle that is corporate lobbyist/elected official relationship and why we need public financing of our campaigns to break the cycle.

Abrams has a look at the larger issue of a small but increasingly wealthy group of individuals playing around in the finance world, socking away millions in profits from the stock market and turning it around into campaign contributions and lobbying operations that further tip the scales in their favor.

The enormous new pools of financial wealth also enabled the corporate financial elite to hire all those damn lobbyists.

Typically, the actual work of these corporate lobbyists -- when they are not busy eating away at the integrity of the legislative system itself -- is advocating for a regime of less regulation in the markets.

There are many examples of their successes; the deregulation of power and electricity companies that led to the rise of Enron, is one.

In 2005, we saw the new anti-bankruptcy law, in which the credit card companies, while keeping their ability to charge usurious interests rates, took away the refuge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy from ordinary Americans.

In 1999, the banking and insurance industries, after years of campaigning against the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act which kept them out of the incredibly lucrative investment markets, finally got the so called "firewall" legislation removed.

Once the banks went into collusion with the big investment firms, it was Katie bar the door; anything could be turned to an investment security, or "instrument" as the industry put it. And so we got the dicing up and bundling of these impossible to "rate" mortgage securities that are the cause of the current panic.

This piece in a great example of the multiple channels by which money enters our political system and further exacerbates problems we hope our government would address. Effectively addressing the subprime crisis, abusive banking practices and all the other problems Abrams brings up is impossible without looking to the systemic collapse, and getting behind the Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate to bring public financing to congressional races.