“Sunlight is the best disinfectant” is a quote from former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis‘ book “Other People’s Money.”
Brandeis served on the court from 1916 through 1939, a time fraught with social and fiscal change. Prior to his nomination, Brandeis was known as “the People’s Lawyer” and frequently took cases pro bono against some of the biggest players of the day. Whether he was taking on railroad monopolies, or defending the American worker in the workplace, Brandeis acted as a legal Robin Hood for many. His efforts helped to create the Federal Reserve System to oversee the banking industry. He also presented ideas for the formulation of a Federal Trade Commission.
Nominated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 for the Supreme Court, he went through a bitter confirmation contest. In writing about the confirmation, Justice William O. Douglas wrote, “Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible”. “He was dangerous because he was incorruptible”. Holy Guacamole! What does that say about the highest court in the land? How does Brandeis’ incorruptibility stand up to the current standard as presented by one Clarence Thomas? More about that in a later post, but do mull over the fact that our highest officials are virtually unaccountable for acts that send most of us to jail. Hyperbole? I think not.
Approached by the idea that congress people should not be allowed to be playing in the market, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi pooh poohed the idea. Subsequently, Tik Tokers have found that Pelosi’s “husband” is prescient when making investments. Now I love Nancy Pelosi and I think she has been a great speaker. I also think she is dead wrong on this issue, as does about 75% of the country. I think most Americans figure if you’re sitting on the Armed Services Committee and you learn that we’re about to invade Grenada, you’d call your spouse and mention that “perhaps an investment in Boeing” might be a good idea.
I’m not saying that 90+% of Congress will act on the impulses that got Martha Stewart sent to jail, I’m just saying, why tempt fate? I think we’ve all learned first-hand that asking people to voluntarily exercise the highest ethical and moral standards is a non-starter. Some do, but it does seem like a lot of people are able to find the “grey areas”. In my mind the only solution is to take away the grey. I’m calling for full transparency.
Before a public official from legislative through judicial takes office they should be fully vetted. Their tax returns for the past ten years should be made public. Their current stock holdings along with their net worth should be revealed. Then their stocks would be placed in a public index fund or mutual funds (their choice). Then the elected official/judge would be concerned with the overall health of the market, not worrying about when to short a stock.
As far back as 2018, Elizabeth Warren has been calling for a ban on congress people owning individual stocks. Recently she has paired with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Congress to promote legislation that would do just that. In spite of her early reluctance, Nancy Pelosi now seems to be on board. Let’s hope she throws her full weight behind the legislation. Maybe they can include my idea about full disclosure of wealth before entering Congress. We’re all wondering how a job that pays $174,000 a year can sustain a yacht and Masesrati lifestyle.
I live in a state that sent a crook to Congress and then when he was asked to leave by the ethics committee, turned around and got elected as Governor. So you can see why from my point of view I think the public needs to know in depth about these people before they gain the first foothold in public trust. Drag ’em out into the sunlight and see which ones can stand the exposure.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the old saying goes.