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Zephyr Teachout

Zephyr Teachout, a Nation editorial board member, is a constitutional lawyer and Law Professor 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.

  • April 22, 2009

    Congresswoman Maloney and the JEC Show Hints of Muscle

    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."

    Zephyr Teachout

  • April 16, 2009

    Seven Preliminary Thoughts on the Tea Parties

    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:

    Zephyr Teachout

  • April 15, 2009

    This Year in Taxes

    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:


    • Tom Daschle
    • Timothy Geithner
    • Nancy Kellifer
    • Kathleen Sibelius
    • Cindy McCain
    • Sarah Palin


      Who am I missing?

    Zephyr Teachout

  • April 13, 2009

    What the Paulites Have Right

    (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.

    Zephyr Teachout

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  • April 9, 2009

    Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize

    Two days ago I wrote about introducing a new kind of scale-based antitrust. Before exploring some other structural reforms, I want to encourage people to join a nationwide demonstration of support for some basic principles of structural change in the banking sector.

    On Saturday, 60+ demonstrations will be held around the country, demanding structural change in the banking sector. The group organizing the demonstrations, a New Way Forward, started less than a month ago, but is already approaching 10,000 members. A New Way Forward embodies the logic of the most thoughtful economic thinkers in the country, translated into clear, direct language and action.

    We/they support a Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize platform, pointing to Krugman on the need for temporary nationalization, Simon Johnson on the need for removing current leadership in the banking sector, and Mike Lux on the importance of creating a new, decentralized private market, with new banks run by new people. Any bank that's "too big to fail" means that it's too big to exist in a free market.

    Zephyr Teachout