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May 30, 2010

"Talk to me, baby!" Happy to oblige.

Rick says:  "talk to me, baby!"  Happy to oblige.

I think that our politics is often devoted to serving special interests rather than the common good.  I think that our politics is, in that sense, often corrupt.  And let me be clear:  I do not think that our politics is *less* corrupt when the Democrats are in the majority--or *more* corrupt when the Republicans are in the majority.

I think that Simon Johnson is viscerally concerned about this problem--more so than many members of Congress.  And I think that Johnson's proposal, which follows, would be a step in the right direction.

Have I said anything with which you disagree?

[C[ounter the money of Wall Street by bringing much more transparency to the conference.

Televising the conference meetings could help, but realistically this is also likely to push the substantive decision-making and discussion off-line.  Therefore, in addition, congressional leaders should be pressed agree to three non-waiveable rules for the conference and the conference report on the Wall Street reform bills: 

  1. Any amendments need to be posted on-line not less than three business days before any relevant conference meeting.  Second degree amendments (i.e., those filed as amendments to amendments) need at least 2 days notice on the same basis.

  2. The House and the Senate will not discuss any conference report until the report as amended by the conference has been posted on-line in its entirety for at least 5 business days.
  3. A red lined version of the conference report as amended – to show all changes – must also be posted on-line for not less than 5 business days before any vote on that conference report.

Without such provisions – which, by the way, are unlikely to be adopted – no one excluded from the backrooms will have the opportunity to learn what the amendments do or what is in the bill itself. 

The point is not that this would necessarily stop the final and nearly complete victory of special interests.  But at least we will learn which members of Congress exactly sided with them, on why, and even why.  And this will help a great deal as we think about how best to move forward.

Posted by Michael Perry on May 30, 2010 at 07:29 AM | Permalink

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I don't think so. I mean, there's always the danger that we (all of us) are tempted to regard as "serving special interests rather than the common good" those policies that serve others' visions or understandings of the common good. And, I'm enough of a Madisonian to think that the common good, well understood, *can* be (but certainly isn't always) served by the vigorous involvement in politics of groups that are focused specifically on particular issues. Finally, I do not think that "Wall Street" is necessarily a more threatening (to the common good) special interest than many others. Danger is everywhere. =-)

Posted by: Rick Garnett | May 30, 2010 8:04:24 AM

Thanks, Rick. I'm wary of political-theoretical abstractions. In any event, we both know that some special interests have the potential to do much greater and longer lasting damage to the common good than other special interests. The masters of the financial system, pursuing their own short-term financial interests, have such potential. I shudder to think about the truly devastating consequences, to the well-being of ordinary families--of mothers, fathers, children--and others, of the kind of massive economic dislocations that the masters of the financial system, left to their own, venal devices, can precipitate.

I'm delighted that we both support Simon Johnson's proposal for greater transparency. Not a left-right issue.

Posted by: Michael Perry | May 30, 2010 11:34:42 AM

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