Politics: The (Real) Oldest Profession

Take the Bonus and RunHas anyone wondered why it is that politicians are always diving for cover during a crisis, but the first to hold hearings and declare an emergency afterwards?  Virtually every major law, from Glass-Steagall after the banks collapsed and the  Great Depression, to Dodd-Frank after the financial crisis of 2008/9 and the Great Recession, it seems the pols are always rushing to the fire after it’s been put out. Only then do they enact laws to install fire prevention systems. Yet in reality, as we have all seen in the build-up to the recent collapse of the credit and housing markets, there were plenty of warning signs.  Why wasn’t anything done then?  The answer is pretty simple – sad, but simple.  Like flimsy reeds in a stagnant pond, politicians in D.C. only move with the political winds.

That’s why Barney Frank was telling Congress that Fannie was financially healthy when it wasn’t, and why Chris Dodd was quietly accepting favors from Angelo Mozilo, the head of Countrywide Loans [which became the poster-child for profligate lending]. Yet, in 2010, after years of blaming Republicans for demanding fiscal accountability, Messrs. Dodd and Frank had a collective epiphany, and enacted a law that would regulate virtually every financial decision made by Americans, all under the rubric of “consumer protection.” [Yes, these are the same folks that can’t balance the budget or agree upon the debt ceiling, but see no fiscal hypocrisy in flying first class – despite sequester rules for everyone else.]

Well, now I think I’ve stumbled upon the answer!  Thanks to my less-than-savory connections to Julian Assange, who is apparently still holed upon at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, feasting on haute cuisine, no doubt, I have come upon the long missing Purloined Playbook for Politicians, exposing their time-honored 4-point plan for guaranteed and guiltless success.  Without exaggeration, this is perhaps the Holy Grail for the self-involved opportunistic Beltway elite [Chuck Schumer will never see this rant post, as he’s too busy searching for his next photo-op….].  Herewith is a snippet from the Playbook:

1. Declare an emergency!  [Be careful to avoid having to explain why you’re doing this after the cow has left the barn – rather than before.  If folks ask why you didn’t do anything sooner, say that you tried, but the other party always thwarted your efforts – then quickly change the subject or accuse the reporter of trying to play “gotcha politics.”]

2.  Point to a recent crisis and identify a villain or a victim, or both!  [Note: Most crises have several villains and victims, so don’t be afraid to use a single crisis over and over again.  Just because Dodd and Frank got there first, doesn’t mean you can’t manufacture a new cause célèbre. For example, how about blaming Fannie and Freddie for the Wall Street crisis, and then demand that the GSEs be dismantled?! (But more about that in another rant post. ~PCQ)] 

3. Develop rules and regulations ostensibly designed to “punish” the villain and “protect” the victim.  [Be careful here!  You’ll have to do some careful balancing if you want to maximize your opportunities. The villain is probably financially stronger than the victim.  This means the villain will have high-paid lobbyists that may be able to funnel money to your campaign if they believe you will go easier on their client.  But you’ll have to put on a sympathetic face for the victims, so they believe you have only their interest at heart.  This may be a good time to lapse into a homespun story about how you suffered at the hands of some villain as a child. For training, watch Joe Biden at a political rally, especially when he veers off-topic. Put on an angry face and speak disparagingly of the villain in the presence of the victim. When out of earshot of the victim, privately shake your head in disbelief, rhetorically asking the villain how the victim could have been so foolhardy.]

4.  Make sure your name is placed on the new law so that the American public will always remember that it was you who saved them from either villainy or victimhood.  [If the bill backfires, you may be called upon to obfuscate – this will require Clinton-esque skills of epic proportions, and is usually reserved for the truly silver-tongued.  For the less articulate pols, you need only to look to the recent example of Maxine Waters, co-author of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. Despite having her name attached to a major law, she apparently never realized it was intended to remove the decades-long government subsidy from flood insurance premiums. This is an oversight that is usually associated with a failure to read what has been placed in front of you. In such cases, declare, like Maxine did with a straight face, that higher private premiums was just an “unintended consequence” of the law – even though that is exactly what the text of the bill said it would do. Then trust that the attention span of the average American is akin to that of a six-year old on a sugar-high, and move quickly away to more pressing social issues, such as whether Ronan Farrow looks more like Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra.]

Conclusion. Wow!  That playbook just confirmed my worst suspicions.  And I thought it was just the cynic in me – thinking that politicians are only a click or two away from the world’s oldest profession. Guess I was right, after all….