Throwing them all out may be our only hope

Published 1:17 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Rainy Day Patriots group last month protested in front of the office in Hoover of U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., after CBS’s “60 Minutes” reported Bachus, among others in Congress, profited from stock trades just before the near collapse of the banking industry in 2008.

Bachus represents Shelby County in Congress.

I saw that “60 Minutes” report, and it was just another thing about Congress that left me sad and fearful about the future of our country.

As part of my job, I’ve met and covered several of Bachus’s talks in Shelby County and found him each time to be refreshingly candid in discussing issues in Washington, D.C.

It’s important to note Bachus is not accused of doing anything illegal. The “60 Minutes” report alleges Bachus made money from stock trades the day after being in closed-door meetings in September 2008 with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who were warning Congressional leaders about the coming financial meltdown. At the time, Bachus was the Republican ranking member of the financial services committee and is today chairman of that committee.

Bachus staunchly denies having made any stock trade based on any non-public information.

The “60 Minutes” report was centered on the book, “Throw Them All Out,” by Peter Schweitzer, who is a fellow with the Hoover Institution, a conservative analysis group based out of Stanford University.

In a letter to Schweitzer, Bachus said it was public knowledge in September 2008 that the economy was headed toward disaster. I take Bachus at his word. However, many members of Congress have begun their public service as middle-income Americans and within a short period of time, are millionaires. For those who don’t amass a fortune while serving, they gain that status pretty quickly afterward, thanks to lucrative lobbying jobs and consulting contracts. Newt Gingrich and his work with Fannie Mae is a perfect example.

These are reasons so many Americans, myself included, think our nation’s problem is Congress. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle most outlandishly put their party far above the interests of the citizens they have been elected to represent.

In watching the Republican debates, I’ve thought about how well a candidate — regardless of party affiliation — would fare if he or she came out with an anti-Congress platform, something like Schweitzer’s book suggests: Throw Them All Out.

A platform based on national term limits and Congressional rules reform — like reforming Congress’s retirement and health care system to one more representative of the reality of most Americans and outlawing money that congressmen, past and present, can make after their service via lobbying and consulting — would not only be wildly popular among most Americans, it’s something that’s going to have to happen if we are to survive as a country.

Jan Griffey is the editor for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 36 or by email at