Zephyr Teachout, a Nation editorial board member, is an associate professor of law at Fordham University and the author of Break ’Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.
Teachout was formerly a Visiting Professor of Law at Duke University and a lecturer at the University of Vermont. Teachout served as the Director of Internet Organizing for the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign. In 2009, she helped found the Antitrust League. Teachout was the first national director of the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes transparency and accountability in government. She volunteered at Occupy Wall Street, where she encouraged the movement to focus on the importance of decentralized power, citing the ideas of James Madison and worked to educate activists in corporate law and policy.
Obama today announced his proposal for restructuring the financial sector, and although there are some excellent parts of the proposal, with real teeth on them (new standards on leverage, for example), the overall gist of the package is oversight. His accompanying explanation also focused on oversight:
Mr. Obama told reporters on Tuesday that a "lack of oversight" allowed what he called "wild risk-taking." He said it led to "very dangerous" conditions that imperiled the global economy.
He believes there need to be more guards on watch, in effect. More (and more independent) weathermen and women, more border guards. In this view, the crisis happened--bottom line--because not enough good people were watching out for risk.
I hope you find these apt, and capable of serving two ends--a celebration of good poetry, a reflection on 100 days.
-- Philip Larkin
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Yesterday's hearing at the Joint Economic Committee, convened by Congresswoman Maloney, gave me some hope that Congress might be thinking about taking some leadership in systematically restructuring our financial system. I highly recommend that everyone watch the video.
Sam Brownback, Republican Congressman Burgess, Democratic Congressman Cummings, Democratic Congresswoman Maloney--unlikely bedfellows, to say the least--all appeared to accept the arguments of Joseph Stiglitz, Simon Johnson, and Thomas Hoenig, that the current PPIP and TARP projects are not just foolish but dangerous, and that we need a radical restructuring of the response to the crisis.
The panel starts with discussions of economic failure, but ends with the problems of political failure. As Congressman Burgess said in the opening remarks, "Trillions of taxpayer dollars are at risk, but congressional approval is not needed for the plan to proceed …on its face this is a violation of the democratic process."
Yesterday thousands of people rallied in hundreds of "tea party" protests across the country, expressing anger about the economy, politics, and taxes.
It is easy to make fun of the tea-baggers, to find idiotic quotes, and share pictures of wing-nut signs. It's easy to dismiss the participants as foolish followers of well-paid demagogues. But I'm not going to join the collective progressive dunking of the tea-bagging events. Whenever thousands of people choose to break their usual nonpolitical routine and publicly protest, we should pay attention. We should try to understand, and---for those of who believe that massive structural change of our financial system is in order---we should probably reach out.
These are my preliminary thoughts about the tea parties:
Happy tax day, everyone! Whenever I log in to Turbo Tax, I think of Tim Geithner, and so I was trying to think of the other political figures who have made this year in taxes interesting:
Who am I missing?
(1) There is nothing sacred about the Fed(2) Power is overly centralized in the Executive branch and thefederal government(3) Power is overly concentrated in agencies that are not designed tobe responsive
We ought not get rid of the Fed--I would fight hard to keep it--butit's a critical point, because once people realize the flexibility ofour federal government, they can open up their imaginations about whatis possible in response to this, or any other, crisis. We need not putall our trust in Bernanke, let alone Geithner or his replacement (if he gets replaced); Congress actually can lead on nationalizing the banks and reorganizing them.
My own hope is that we first shift power away from the executive tothe Congressional branch--this only requires that we speakdifferently, collectively. Instead of "what should Obama do...?" or"what should Geithner do...?" about the banking crisis, we oughtalways be asking, "what should Pelosi do...?" and "what should myCongressmember do...?" If we talk differently, we will start holdingdifferent people accountable. We will, and can, demand moreimagination and leadership from our Congressional representatives.