The Congressional Retirement Plan™ Meets The TPP

Long before the cool kids were doing it, I described the de facto Congressional Retirement Plan™ (boldface added):

…it’s not about the campaign contributions. If their reluctance to support a public option were based solely on the electoral calculus of campaign donations versus popular support–that is, votes–the votes win hands down. Any Democratic senator in a swing state who needs independent and Republican votes can’t afford to piss off the ~50% of Republicans and ~70% of independents who support a public option. To the extent that an Evan Bayh is supported by independents and Republicans, does he really think that these crossover voters are the ones who oppose a public option? (Actually, Bayh just might think so, since he’s dumber than a fucking sack of hammers). So, if this is simple electoral politics, the obvious move is to screw your donors (of course, we are talking about ‘new Democrats’ who are the most inept politicians in recorded history, so who knows?).

So, Mad Biologist, how is this about money? It’s simple: it’s about life after politics. One of the dirty secrets about many, if not most, congressmen and senators is that they like Washington, D.C., rhetoric notwithstanding. They want to stay in town after they leave (or lose) office. Once you’ve tasted the Capital of the Free World, do you really want to go back to Pierre, South Dakota? (Tom Daschle comes to mind…). It’s funny how many politicians, having made a career out of bashing War-Shing-Tun, don’t…seem…to…ever…leave.

I can’t blame them: I moved to Boston, and would be very happy to stay here. Places do grow on you. The problem comes, for politicians, when they have to find a job. For an ex-politician, there aren’t that many ‘straight paths’ to getting your next job: lobbyist and corporate board member are the easiest and the most lucrative.

But if you get a reputation as someone who opposes large business interests, what chance do you have of getting either of these types of jobs? Sometimes, the quid pro quo is very crude and direct (e.g., Billy Tauzin), but the Village’s political culture makes it clear what is acceptable. One should not be ‘populist’, or, heaven forbid, liberal.

Which brings us to how the TPP trade deal might get passed (boldface mine):

On Tuesday, Politico broke the story that the White House will be “making an all-out push to win passage of the deal in the lame duck session of Congress, organizing 30 events over the congressional recess.” The effort will be designed to put pressure not only on Democratic members of Congress, but also on swing Republican votes, by lobbying important business interests in their districts….

The “fast-track” legislation that allows Congress only an up-or-down vote on the TPP, considered essential to its passage, was approved in June 2015 by just a 10-vote margin in the House of Representatives. Only 28 Democrats voted with their president, and they have since come under increasing pressure not to repeat their vote for the TPP. Meanwhile, nine Republicans who voted for fast-track have publicly stated that they will vote against the TPP.

So it is looking like a very close vote. (For procedural and political reasons, Obama will not bring it to a vote unless he is sure he has the necessary votes). Now let’s look at one special group of Representatives who can swing this vote: the actual lame-ducks, i.e., those who will be in office only until Jan. 3. It depends partly on how many lose their election on Nov. 8, but the average number of representatives who left after the last three elections was about 80.

Most of these people will be looking for a job, preferably one that can pay them more than $1 million a year. From the data provided by OpenSecrets.org, we can estimate that about a quarter of these people will become lobbyists. (An additional number will work for firms that are clients of lobbyists).

So there you have it: It is all about corruption, and this is about as unadulterated as corruption gets in our hallowed democracy, other than literal cash under a literal table. These are the people whom Obama needs to pass this agreement, and the window between Nov. 9 and Jan. 3 is the only time that they are available to sell their votes to future employers without any personal political consequences whatsoever. The only time that the electorate can be rendered so completely irrelevant, if Obama can pull this off.

Maybe those arguments about the incorruptibility of politicians, even Democratic ones, might start looking really stupid come Nov. 9.

We’re fucked.

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