Will Wilkinson has a smart, if libertarian-tinged, take on Peter Orszag’s Citimoney, that I haven’t seen it anywhere else:
We are constantly exploited by the tools meant to foil our exploitation. For a progressive to acknowledge as much is tantamount to abandoning progressivism. So it’s no surprise that progressives would rather worry over trivialities such as campaign finance reform than dwell on the paradoxes of political power. But it really isn’t the Citizens United decision that’s about to make Peter Orszag a minor Midas. It’s the vast power of a handful of Washington players, with whom Mr Orszag has become relatively intimate, to make or destroy great fortunes more or less at whim. Well-connected wonks can get rich on Wall Street only because Washington power is now so unconstrained. Washington is so unconstrained in no small part because progressives and New Dealers and Keynesians and neo-cons and neo-liberals for various good and bad reasons wanted it that way. So, what is to be done? Summon a self-bottling genie-bottling genie?[….]
The classically liberal answer is to make government less powerful.[…..]
So what is to be done about the structural injustice spotlighted by Peter Orszag’s passage through the revolving golden door? How exactly do we tweak the unjust structure? If the system is rigged, how exactly do we unrig it? In which direction can we muddle without making matters worse?
This goes straight to the heart of a matter, but I also think this is far too reductionist. First off, given Orszag’s talents, his actual work may well be worth a lot of money to Citi — he ran a fantastic OMB. Harold Ford is a much more troubling case — he sure as shit wasn’t getting a million Ameros a year to oversee the crunching of numbers.
Nevertheless, the appearance of de facto bribery here is extremely troubling. Even more troubling is the fact that by making all political elites wealthy, the corporatocracy can ensure that political leaders will identify with the rich.
But the most important thing is whether or not the bribee did the bidding of his bribers while he was working for the federal government. I don’t see evidence that Orszag did (his recent columns are another story), I do see evidence that Harold Ford did (bankruptcy bill). That is part of why I would never vote for Harold Ford for anything, not even in a general election (I’d rather see Orszag stay away from government work too, at this point). And that’s how democracy is supposed to work — we don’t vote for people if we don’t like their record.
As much as the post-government pay-outs disturb me, Citizens United bothers me more, because it directly affects our ability to have real elections. Government officials will always be bribed, in an any system, and while every effort should be made to prevent and condemn this bribery, I don’t think throwing up your hands and saying “this is why the government shouldn’t have any power” is the solution. Remember: corporatocrats can bribe each other too.