Sarah Palin almost gets it – Solving the graft problem in Congress

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Sarah Palin writes about graft inside the beltway, and the recently released “Throw Them All Out” by Peter Schweizer. Her suggestion to increase transparency and add layers of bureaucracy to monitor and restrict financial moves by members of Congress might work at the state level, but in Washington it would be treating symptoms, not the disease itself.

Palin certainly is familiar with dealing with corruption and graft at the state level, but the federal government issues in Washington D.C. can not be solved my more rules. There are plenty of rules for congress-critters and more rules would result in more loopholes.

The real reason there is such a huge problem in Washington? There are – quite sincerely – unlimited opportunities for members of Congress and their staff to make a buck. Palin writes

How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires? How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? How do politicians’ stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers’? I answered the question in that speech: Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.

Well there you go governor, you answer the question right there. The problem is not just that they have access to our tax dollars, it’s that they have access to a tremendously huge stockpile of our tax dollars. We send them so much money each year to distribute “back to the people” they literally have to create new (duplicate) programs, build gigantic airports that have few if any passengers and yes, build bridges to nowhere.

Palin suggests a few reforms, and some of them will certainly help. But here is one example.

We need more detailed financial disclosure reports, and members should submit reports much more often than once a year. All stock transactions above $5,000 should be disclosed within five days.

OK. What about stock transactions of more than $5,000 for family and friends? Parents? Sons and daughters? How about first cousins once removed?

More rules. More rules with more loopholes. More symptoms of the disease.

The real solution is to take so much power away from the congress-critters in Washington as possible. You know, all that Article 1, Section 8 talk. Transport that power back to the states and the people – a.k.a. state legislatures. Does this mean we want government completely removed from our lives? Of course not, the states can more effectively do what the federal government fails to do today.

When you see the first congress-critters resign their position within the beltway with the goal to become a state legislator or governor, we’ll know we’re moving in the right direction and doing the right thing for our country.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. Plainvillian on November 18, 2011 at 9:28 am

    It’s too bad we can’t have Congress live under the laws they pass controlling the the rest of us.? Every exemption Congress legislates for its members and government employees erodes the confidence of the electorate and diminishes the rights of all.? Had we always had congress-critters of character, it would have never started.

  2. Lynn on November 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Couldn’t agree more. But then again, could use term limits, no pay raises for Congress if unemployment is over 5% and if state has a department there can’t be a federal department. Sorry, can’t make my mind up today.

    • Dimsdale on November 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

      I agree with term limits: don’t give them the time to accumulate power and access and become a ruling class.? I would suggest pay CUTS (maybe no pay?) when unemployment goes above 5% or when? non emergency deficit spending is employed.? Cut out their numerous recesses too: they need the time to do their jobs!? Maybe we could make it so there were no more “titles for life”, i.e. calling someone “Senator” etc. after they have left office.

    • Dimsdale on November 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

      And put them on Social Security too!? (I should be hearing from sammy in 3, 2, 1…..?? 😉 )

    • PatRiot on November 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      Term limits must come with heavy lobbying reform.? Otherwise the experienced lobbyist will squeeze every tax dollar out of every wet-behind-the-ear?elected official – every election cycle!

    • ricbee on November 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm


  3. Jeff S on November 18, 2011 at 11:37 am

    The minute new rules are put in place to “control” congressional financial transactions, they will have found ways to get around it.? There has to be term limits, get rid of career politicians.? When the country was founded, congressional representatives were part time jobs.?

  4. sammy22 on November 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    You are right Dims, here I am. More fantasy solutions from Steve, you etc. You keep “forgetting” that? the rules are made by our elected officials.

    • Steve M on November 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm

      Fantasy solutions? Are you friggin’ kidding me? The right solution might take years to implement, but that’s only because we’ve had decades of incremental brain-washing where so many think the federal government has to “fix it now.” That’s a pathetic attitude, and anything we do that does not move power back to the states is a step in the wrong direction. We’re losing our country right in front of our eyes as we become more and more dependent on the federal government for everything from national defense (what they should be doing) to outright paying for brick crosswalks in Any-Small-Town USA and providing “free” food to kids in school. That’s totally pathetic.

      Term limits will not solve the problem of federal government overreach. If you want “free” healthcare, education, school breakfasts & lunches and 99 weeks or more of unemployment coverage, that’s fine. Just do it in the State Legislatures across the country, and pay for it with state revenues, never at the federal level. Why you consider that a “fantasy” solution is totally beyond me.

      You could outright turn off the tap of federal funding overnight and the states would immediately have to raise taxes (necessarily skyrocket) to cover the difference. I’m totally fine with that, but I propose we do it over a period of time to reduce the shock. Start with the Department of Education tomorrow. Shut it down and let it be a model for the future where the states can work independently to fund and work towards the best solution for their state.

    • ricbee on November 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm

      ?That still will not stop them from manipulating their investments like Chris Dodd & many others.

    • Dimsdale on November 19, 2011 at 10:48 am

      How about a well written “zero tolerance” law for politicians and their tendencies toward corruption?

  5. Murphy on November 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Require them give up their “Bentley” health insurance plans and take Obamacare! That would be a sure way to kill Obamacare.

  6. sammy22 on November 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    The “fantasy”, Steve, is in thinking/assuming/hoping that our elected representatives in Congress (House and Senate) would be willing to give up any of the power they have. You say:” The real solution is to take so much power away from the congress-critters in Washington as possible.” How on earth is THAT going to happen? Yea, I know, elect ONLY candidates that pledge to give? power back to the states.

  7. GdavidH on November 18, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    “”The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” – Alexis de Tocqueville””

    With a majority in this country poised to vote to maintain the flow at the gov’t teat, I fear Sammy is correct. The only way change can come about is for the gov’t to run out of other people’s money.?Oh silly me…..That happened 15 trillion dollars ago

    Never mind? ?

  8. JBS on November 19, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Our laws limit the term of the president, governors, mayors and many other elected officials. Why not the Congress Critters? It is insane, and only results in abuse, to have “career” legislators.
    No more perks. Pension? Make it like the military; there is no reason why a “career politician” has a better pension than a career military person. Oh, and they are not exempt from the law of the land. Period. Only SCOTUS judges should enjoy lifetime employment. They should review every proposed law before it is enacted for constitutionality and will (common sense) of the people.
    Speaking of SCOTUS, could the problem with Congress be attacked constitutionally? I can’t see any legislator voting to evict themselves from the gravy train.? Let’s hear from the Constitutional experts.
    Here’s one: service in the Congress should be unpaid, a stipend at most (so Mr. Smith can go to Congress). Whatever happened to the honor of being a Congressperson? Metaphorically, let them park in the lot like everyone else.
    I know that I am suggesting more rules, but there has to be some mechanism to transform Congress into more of a legislative body serving the people of the nation than of a…

    • JBS on November 19, 2011 at 9:56 am

      I apologize for always entering the discussion late. I didn’t receive this post before retiring last night.
      I wonder there is why a delay in my receiving these posts in general?

    • Dimsdale on November 19, 2011 at 10:55 am

      I agree: term limits will help stop the trend towards “absolute power corrupting absolutely”.?? Returning the power to states will keep accountability local and restore the “laboratory of the state’s” in experimenting with solutions to problems.? No more consulting, being appointed to boards of directors, lobbying, and, as I said previously, use of a title to an office you no longer hold.? Pay and pensions: agreed.? Let them live in gov’t supplied barracks.
      Small changes add up.? Maybe not to the “all or nothing” sammy demands, but we can make progress.

  9. sammy22 on November 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I agree with all you say above Dims. My issue has been (and is) that those steps, small or not, are unlikely to came, since they have to come from the elected NOT the electorate. It’s a gravy train for the elected NOT the electorate. It’s sad, but I do not see a mechanism that will force the issue.

    • Dimsdale on November 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

      The TEA party and what OWS should have been would be a good start.


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