Not-so-extreme makeover

Insider training bill window-dresses Congress' battered image

“The numbers of people who have a favorable impression of this body are so low that we’re down to close relatives and paid staff. And I’m not so sure about the paid staff.”

– Sen. Joe Lieberman, Independent, Conn.

 

The good senator is right. This may be the worst Congress in the history of the United States.

Indeed, Congress’ approval rating hovers around 11 percent.

So, since many of the members are seeking re-election this year, they want to do something to make themselves look better.

But instead of, oh, balancing the budget – or, in the case of the Senate, just passing one for the first time in three years – Congress is passing a bill that essentially says they’ll not act like financial criminals anymore.

Wow, what a sweet gesture!

When it became public knowledge recently in a 60 Minutes exposé that prominent members of Congress may be guilty of insider trading – using inside information that they get in the course of their jobs to make money in the stock market – most of us couldn’t believe that that wasn’t already against the law. Well, it is, though no one in memory has been charged.

Thus, while largely symbolic, the bill to make insider trading by members of Congress a crime sailed through the Senate this week.

“A rare instance of bipartisanship” is how the Associated Press termed the bill.

“The legislation,” writes the AP, “would require disclosure of new stock transactions on the Internet within 30 days and explicitly prohibit members of Congress from initiating trades based on non-public information they acquired in their official capacity.” It also “would prohibit lawmakers from tipping off family members or others about non-public information that could influence a stock’s price.”

A House bill also would cover real estate and non-stock transactions.

President Obama has promised to sign such a bill.

Of course, our friends in Washington may find it easier to influence stock prices than their approval ratings.

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