Posts tagged: we need a better government than we’ve got

The Born Warning

I watched a very disturbing story called “The Warning” on Frontline last night. I urge you to take an hour and watch it yourself. You can watch it on Frontline’s website now.

It is the story of a courageous woman named Brooksley Born and how, way back in 1998, she warned Congress and the American people that the over the counter derivatives market needed to be regulated. Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, Robert Rubin and Phil Gramm all fought hard against regulation. They won. The Amercian people lost. It is just shameful. I did not know who Brooksley Born was until I saw the story on Frontline.

Even after the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management collapsed in 1998, nothing was done. Greenspan still didn’t think regulation was needed. I didn’t know until I watched this that Greenspan was a huge follower of Ayn Rand. She didn’t believe in regulation of the markets either.

We still don’t have any regulation over the derivative market. It is a $595 trillion market that operates in the dark. Even now, after the economic collapse of last year and the government bailout of the banks, Wall Street is fighting against regulation.

What horrible thing is hiding under that rock?  Someone needs to shine a light on it. I have more questions.

Why isn’t there an investigation of exactly why the economy collapsed so the guilty parties can be punished?

Is Bernie Madoff the only person going to prison?

Why hasn’t anyone given Brooksley Born a medal for what she did? Alan Greenspan should take off his Presidential Medal of Freedom and give it to her.

Why hasn’t anyone turned this story into a movie?

At the end of the show, I sadly concluded that our government is either totally incompetent, horribly corrupt, or both. There is just no other conclusion to be reached. It’s disgusting.

As Paul Krugman says, “We need a better government than we’ve got.”

Watch “The Warning” on Frontline.

Reforming Albany

The New York State Capitol in AlbanyThere are 150 members of the New York State Assembly and 62 Senators. There are 19 million of us. They are seriously outnumbered.

How do you force the politicians in Albany to reform a rotten system that benefits them at the expense of the people of New York? The perception is that the government in New York state is corrupt, unethical, and dishonest, and that nothing can be done. That’s just the way it is and nobody can change it. It’s politics as usual.

I disagree. We can fix Albany. It is not an impossible task. A serious ethics law is the first step. No meaningful reform will come out of Albany until a real ethics law is passed. Everything else will flow from that. Here is how we can force them to enact a serious ethics law.

Common Cause or the League of Women Voters should write an ethics law for the New York Assembly and Senate. It should be written in plain English so that a fifth grader can read and understand it.

It should be published in all of the daily newspapers in New York state on the same day. That is important. It should take up the entire page. It should be published on their websites as well.   At the bottom of the document leave a space for every member of the Assembly and Senate to sign it.

It would be like the signatures on the Declaration of Independence. If the signature isn’t legible, print the name too. This will take ethics reform out of the State Capitol in Albany and put it in front of the public in plain view.

The newspapers should also publish the phone numbers, email, and postal addresses of each member of the legislature. The newspapers should ask each reader to contact their representatives and demand that they sign the new ethics law as published in the paper.

The League of Women Voters or Common Cause would be the main contact point for the legislators. They would have to send a letter saying that they supported the ethics law and to please sign their name to it so that their constituents could see it.

This document would be updated every day with the new signatures on the websites of the newspapers until there are enough signatures to make it a law. You would be able to see on a daily basis who supported it and who didn’t support it.

This should shame the politicians into doing the right thing, since they won’t do it themselves. Voters will be looking for the names of their representatives. If voters don’t see their names, they can call them and find out why. If not enough signatures are obtained after 30 days, proceed to step two.

Step 2 would be a daily protest at the State Capitol in Albany. A hundred people a day would do. This would go on every day while the legislature is in session.

If there are still not enough signatures and the legislature goes home, proceed to step three.

Step 3 would be several protesters following each individual legislator 24 hours a day until they sign the document. Everywhere the legislator went, there would be protestors with signs following them.

Eventually, there will be enough signatures. Someone will have to introduce a bill to make the ethics law a real, legal law that the Assembly and Senate must obey or face the consequences. The first person to step up and sign the ethics law in the newspaper should have the privilege of introducing the bill.

After the ethics bill becomes a law, the members of the Assembly and Senate should have to take an oath and proclaim that they have read it, understand it and will act accordingly.

There has got to be a way to reform the politicians in Albany. Business as usual is killing this state. The citizens of New York are being cheated everyday.

Paul Krugman, the Pulitzer Prize winning economist from Princeton University and a New York Times columnist, said on the Bill Maher show last September, “We need a better government than we’ve got.”

He was talking about the federal government in Washington, D.C., but you can apply it to New York state government just as easily.

We need a better government than we’ve got and we need it now.

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