On May 2, Brian Bushard reported this breaking news on Forbes.com: “An eclectic group of lawmakers, including progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), proposed a bill Tuesday to effectively prevent members of Congress from actively trading stocks—the latest push to stop congressional stock trading, though previous efforts have faced opposition from both parties. The Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act, also introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), would prohibit members of Congress, as well as their spouses and any dependents, from owning or trading individual stocks. Ocasio-Cortez argued on Tuesday that Congress’ ability to trade stocks “erodes the public’s trust in government,” and Gaetz—often at the opposite end of votes from Ocasio-Cortez—said “We cannot allow the Swamp to prioritize investing in stocks over investing in our country.”
Upon seeing the article, David Hay of Evergreen Gavekal wrote in his Haymaker newsletter: Those of you who have seen Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I might recall this line: “The Roman Senate is the best legislature that money can buy!”, a joke delivered by the comedian Comicus (played by Brooks). Of course, the joke goes over poorly, as Comicus is in the halls of power when belting out his routine, and Emperor Nero himself (Dom Deluise) is less than amused by the notion of his government being effectively for sale.
Hay continues: Here, some 2000 years later, we are all numb to the reality of elected representatives arriving at the Capitol Building either well off or kind of well off, only to leave a few terms later fantastically well off or preposterously well off. We don’t always know the details, but we don’t need to — elected office for many is a means of personal enrichment, and many of the system’s beneficiaries don’t even have the decency to be shy about it. So, if AOC and Gaetz want to form the oddest odd couple ever to oddly go about achieving some good in the way of reform, they deserve our praise for the effort, provided it’s not merely theatrical. Creating at least an impression that government service is meant to do right by the citizenry rather than guarantee extra zeroes in the bank accounts of those “serving” would be a sizable step towards restoring faith in yet another of the republic’s ailing institutions.