Reason Foundation

http://reason.org
http://reason.org/blog/show/stock-act-ready-for-obamas-signatur

Reason Foundation

Out of Control Policy Blog

STOCK Act Ready for Obama’s Signature

James Groth
March 23, 2012, 12:52pm

Following weeks of delays, Harry Reid and the Senate finally sent the worthless legislation that is the STOCK Act to Barak Obama. Barring a staffer dropping it into the toilet en route to his desk, it will become law momentarily.

The STOCK Act is little more than a desperate attempt by Congress to retain what little confidence and respect is left for them in the hearts and minds of the American public. It accomplishes nothing, and addresses a non-issue. We have written about this fact since the Act’s first introduction last fall, which can be found here, here, and here.

Despite the Act and the legislative process leading up to its finalized language being nothing more than political grandstanding, what the STOCK Act really represents is a missed opportunity. If Congress were truly serious about policing themselves and not merely interested in gaining back the trust of Americans through a useless law, they’d design and pass worthwhile legislation. We wrote about this in our previous article:

“To prevent members of Congress and their staffs from cashing in on their positions while in office, a law needs to require them to report all financial transactions in real time, on the date they are made and prevent them from capitalizing on any nonpublic information they receive from any source gathered in the course of their public service.

The proposed STOCK Act has enough loopholes to drive a truck through. A simple fiduciary duty law that covers all financial vehicles and transactions - stocks, real estate, derivatives, etc. - would be more likely to protect taxpayers’ interests. This law would be better able to spot Congress‘ dubious financial deals because it includes all avenues by which members are able to use their privileged positions to enrich themselves, and it immediately shares the details of the members’ financial activity.

To give the law some teeth and make members of Congress think twice about using their positions to get rich, the SEC or the Justice Department must commit to forming an independent unit actively monitoring congressional stock activity and prosecuting offenders, which isn’t happening now.”

We wrote that in December, and since nothing has changed in the Act to reflect anything beyond just stocks. The law will pass, Obama and Congress will cheer their feeble attempt to demonstrate integrity, and status quo will be restored.

Referencing the STOCK Act, Obama had this to say:

“After I sign this bill into law, Members of Congress will not be able to trade stocks based on nonpublic information they gleaned on Capitol Hill.  It’s a good first step.  And in the months ahead, Congress should do even more to help fight the destructive influence of money in politics and rebuild the trust between Washington and the American people.”

America is tired of first steps. Why not just get the job done right the first go around and then move on to the issues that are truly important to this country like debt reduction, tax reform, monetary madness, and a host of others. Congress doesn’t need to waste time “rebuilding trust” and conning the American public into thinking their decisions aren’t made by special interests and money. The STOCK Act isn’t real reform. It’s yet another missed opportunity and a distraction from what really needs to be done.


James Groth is Research Associate


Print This