The British historian, Lord Acton, once wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and “There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” Rarely have truer words been stated by an individual. Lord Acton was referring to popes and kings in this instance, but it is unsurprising that these words still have veracity in the twenty-first century, as men are still men, and fallible by nature.
The same lure of easy, ill-gotten goods for those in power exists to this very day, and the US Congress is no exception. In yet another bone-headed, selfish move, they recently voted to repeal portions of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which required members of that governing body to disclose their financial transactions online — something which never occurred anyway, with various stoppages before the repeal.
This is the same legislative body, mind you, which creates laws that govern how the very institutions they regulate may act. So they are more than likely to have information to which the average investor is not privy. It is akin to the sheep dog colluding with the wolves to cull the sheep to their own benefit.
Even President Barack Obama has said “The idea that everybody plays by the same rules is one of our most cherished American values. It’s the notion that the powerful shouldn’t get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everybody else, and if we expect that to apply to our biggest corporations and to our most successful citizens, it certainly should apply to our elected officials — especially at a time when there is a deficit of trust between this city and the rest of the country.”
His tired adage of “national security” makes him no less of a hypocrite as he signed the STOCK Act’s repeal. Seriously, who believes this “crying wolf” tale any longer?
This is “par for the course” when it comes to Congress, the same institution that exempted itself from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This required rectification with the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, but even that law only applied to past congressional exemptions. One naturally infers that Congress constantly attempts to exclude itself from the very laws it imposes upon the citizenry of the United States, with the hope that some, if not all, of these exemptions will pass unnoticed.
As noted, the reporting exemptions in the STOCK Act are not unprecedented, nor are they unique. Congress and President Obama have recently colluded to exempt themselves from the very controversial “Obamacare” or Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010. Draconian, profit-losing burdens upon the private sector are so much easier to pass when those in Washington, D.C., are exempted from the pain.
It is unfortunate that individuals such as Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) must even wage a battle to have Congress participate in the very exchanges they created for the peasants . . . I mean, “constituents” — but at least the public has a champion against such hypocrisy still. Though, if history is any guide, an appeal will likely take years, if not decades, to congeal into reality.
All the while, the people suffer the consequences to which Congress has made itself immune. If Congress feels the necessity to exempt itself from a particular piece of legislation, it should never vote to enact the legislation to start with. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.