How politicians can kick the Wall Street habit

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

The pols are in no position to enact any further left-populist reforms — laws that create, say, a financial transaction tax, or that make it easier for employees to form unions — so long as Republicans control the House and have veto power in the Senate. For that matter, the Democrats couldn’t even get those bills enacted when they controlled both houses of Congress. So what, besides affirming their solidarity with the demonstrators, can they do?

Here’s a modest proposal: Refuse all campaign contributions from banks, hedge funds, private equity funds and their partners and employees. From the whole financial sector. Sign a pledge to go off the sauce. Unlike the signatories to Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge, lawmakers wouldn’t be asking voters to trust them once the election is over. They’d be honoring their pledge before the election. And unlike the Groverians, they wouldn’t surrender their powers of judgment and freedom of action once they’re in office. Indeed, their freedom of action would expand because they wouldn’t be indebted to “what is far and away the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties,” as the Center for Responsive Politics, which tallies all federal campaign contributions, characterizes the financial sector. In the 2008 election cycle, those contributions came to a cool $500,863,000.

Continue reading