As Congress debated the financial reform bill, 850 business, trade groups and other corporate interests threw over 3,000 lobbyists at Capitol Hill and spent over $1.3 billion in 2009. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce led the way with its contingent of 85 lobbyists with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association tossing in another 54 of their own. Around 175 groups involved in the financial services industry, including Goldman Sachs, also hired lobbyists to target any proposal aimed directly at banks.
They say that like it's a bad thing.
Sure, there are some negatives. The aims for which they were working were suspect, that's one thing. We need financial reform. They spent more than a billion bucks fighting against it. So that's not good. Then there's the fact that they failed. That's strike two. If you're going to work for something bad, you might as well succeed. That's the principle upon which much of Business is founded. You do bad stuff. You win. You get to write the history. That's the formula that won the West.
But aren't we being a bit unfair to lobbyists? They have a job like any other. When I worked for my old corporation, which no longer exists, our Washington lobbyists used to belong to a little club that included representatives of proud businesses that employed hundreds of thousands of people and produced billions in revenue. Sadly for them, they were very unpopular in spite of these attractive qualities, just because they represented interests that wanted to, for instance, dump nuclear waste in Indian reservations, or promote smoking and drinking among our youth. They were a jolly, hard-eating and drinking bunch, those lobbyists, and really good at parties. I knew a few of them, and they were very nice. Not all of us can be equally proud of what we do for a living, but what's a person to do? Gotta eat. Are you always proud of what YOU do?
In this case, at least, the lobbyists who stood up for our corrupt and insane financial system believed that what they were doing was founded on the solid principles of classic Reaganomics. And it was. We've spent several decades praying at the Church of Deregulation. When did the text of that Gospel change? Excuse us if we didn't get the memo, right?
And let us not forget that those 3000 lobbyists pumped $1.3 billion into our struggling economy. This put bread on the table for countless restaurateurs, bartenders, secretaries, typists, messenger service bike riders, members of the news media, escorts and others who rely on Washington business at its most frenzied to survive. Imagine if that billion-plus wad of dough had NOT been employed in pursuit of the interests they serve? Would we have been better off?
In these difficult times, let's not be too hasty to criticize those who are willing to generate revenue in pursuit of the American dream. If others were writing the script right now, they would be our heroes. And who knows. If we're not careful, they may well be again.