Reviews | Members of Congress face tests over stock trading and unionization of staff

To take just one example, freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is a particularly strong player in the markets. Insider found he broke the stock law 132 times by failing to report trades totaling at least $894,000 on time.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) was asked if she would support a bill that would ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks, she was dismissive. “We are a free market economy”, she said“and they should be able to participate in that.”

But now, perhaps responding to strongly worded opinion pieces criticizing her stance, Pelosi has returned. According to Punchbowl News, she is working with other House Democrats to craft a bill that would ban members from trading individual stocks.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) agrees, and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) has already drafted a bill banning the practice. Even some Republicans support the idea.

The issue here is not just about timely reporting. There is a long and unfortunate history of members of Congress using the knowledge they gain, whether through classified briefings or simply the ordinary work of legislation, to enrich themselves with well-timed stock trades. . Sometimes it leads to insider trading convictions, sometimes it sounds incredibly shady, but most of the time you never hear about it.

Even when uncorrupted, it fuels the widespread belief among the public that Congress is corrupt, which creates cynicism and division.

Let’s ask Senator Tuberville. “I think it’s ridiculous. They might as well start sending robots here,” he told a reporter when asked about the proposals. “I think that would really reduce the number of people who would want to come here and serve.”

Indeed, what’s the point of being in Congress if you can’t trade individual stocks? It’s not like it was meant to be a Public Service or something.

Now consider the issue of unionization. Congressional staff are notoriously badly treated: underpaid, overworked, and subject to the whims of bosses for whom a gigantic ego is practically their own job requirement. If you were interviewing in any other industry and saw every wall covered in pictures of the boss, you’d probably run. But that’s what a congressional office looks like, and Capitol Hill is replete with stories of tyrannical members creating toxic workplaces.

Thus, some members of the staff come together around the idea of ​​training a syndicate, or join an existing one. Until now, pelosi and Schumer came out in favor of the idea. And on Tuesday, the White House confirmed that President Biden supports unionizing congressional staffers.

But if you had to guess which Democrat isn’t so enthusiastic, what name would you choose? That’s right, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Another Democrat would say the opposite is true: unions guarantee good pay and fair treatment, and when staff are paid adequately and treated with respect, they perform better. Perhaps Manchin will have a different opinion once he has had a chance to think about it, much like Chairman Pelosi did on stock trading.

These will serve as good tests of where members of Congress stand — not just on public policy, but how they feel about their own personal obligations to the public and the people who work for them. That should be quite revealing.

About Robert Wright

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