Bringing in the Clowns

As we keep learning, the antidote to progress in America... is congress.

Anytime We the People seem to be making progress on some area of public policy involving corporate greed, we can count on some congress critter in a clown suit to rush in with a slapstick to protect the greedy. Today's congressional clown is the right honorable Richard H. Baker, Republican of Louisiana, and his slapstick is a bill he calls The Securities Fraud Deterrence and Investor Restitution Act.

Sounds heavy, huh? Sounds good, too -- deterring Wall Street fraud is something we're all for, especially with the scams of Arthur Anderson, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and all the rest still fresh in our minds or even still being practiced. So, is Rep. Baker going after these scammers? No, no, Pollyanna -- his bill goes after the very state law enforcement officials who have been going after the scammers.

Some of the most encouraging progress against the Wall Street greedheads has been made by such energetic state officials as New York's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. So here comes the clownish Baker with his "Spite Spitzer" bill. It would ban state officials from imposing conflict-of-interest rules on Wall Street firms and from otherwise imposing regulations to protect the small investors. Indeed, Baker's bill says that no state can create protections that are tougher than those of the notoriously-lax federal regulators.

Curiously, Baker, who calls himself a "conservative," wants to take the local cop off the beat and use federal power to preempt state authority. His protect-the-greedy bill also bears a curious resemblence to a proposal that was pushed by Wall Street powerhouse Morgan Stanley. And, did I mention the curious fact that Baker's top contributor in the last election was Morgan Stanley?

This is Jim Hightower saying... To stop Baker's slapstick routine, call the Consumer Federation of America: 202-387-6121.

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