Sunday, May 20, 2012

The lobbying ban and the concentration of power 

The Washington Post has an interesting story about the extensive activity of lobbyists at the White House, and is fairly up front in noticing the discontinuity with Barack Obama's campaign promises:

More than any president before him, Obama pledged to change the political culture that has fueled the influence of lobbyists. He barred recent lobbyists from joining his administration and banned them from advisory boards throughout the executive branch. The president went so far as to forbid what had been staples of political interaction — federal employees could no longer accept free admission to receptions and conferences sponsored by lobbying groups.

“A lot of folks,” Obama said last month, “see the amounts of money that are being spent and the special interests that dominate and the lobbyists that always have access, and they say to themselves, maybe I don’t count.”

The White House visitor records make it clear that Obama’s senior officials are granting that access to some of K Street’s most influential representatives. In many cases, those lobbyists have long-standing connections to the president or his aides. Republican lobbyists coming to visit are rare, while Democratic lobbyists are common, whether they are representing corporate clients or liberal causes.


Corporate tool that I am, I do not blame the lobbyists or the interests that commission them. When government at one level or another accounts for 30% of GDP, it is a huge source of business and regulation that any executive ignores at his or her peril. The extent of lobbying, therefore, is in direct relationship to government's intrusion in to the economy, and since this government has intruded more than any predecessor going back at least to the first half of the Carter Administration, lobbying has no doubt grown notwithstanding Barack Obama's stated ambition.

The question, of course, is whether this president's promises and bureaucratic steps to "change the political culture" are ingenuous, or cynical. If one were to search high and low for an argument in favor of cynicism, one might make the point that the various "reforms" enacted by President Obama tend to shift the target of lobbying from federal agencies and Congress to the White House itself. That has the fairly obvious effect of concentrating lobbying around the president, maximizing his ability to extract political benefit from the quotidian decisions of the federal government.

Of course, maybe I'm just cynical. CORRECTION: Per commenter "Anon Attorney," aggregate federal, state, and local government spending is now 40% of GDP. I forgot about the local part.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 21, 12:38:00 AM:

And I was accusing Putin of being the new Tsar....and all along it was Tsar Obama.

We can hope the Winter Palace in will fall in November...not in St. Petersburg...in Washington.

No, not replaced with Kerensky, Trotsky nor Lenin....but by small d democrat and small l liberal.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon May 21, 12:51:00 AM:

"Of course, maybe I'm just cynical."
Of course. We are sure there is a perfectly logical explanation that benefits the poor working woman most of all.  

By Blogger MTF, at Mon May 21, 08:21:00 AM:

As a famous politician once said, "Come on man, you should know better when politicians make promises!"

It's not you, or the voters generally, who are cynical about politicians, it's the President himself. He's not just disingenuous, he's also ideological, not very smart and stubborn.  

By Blogger james, at Mon May 21, 08:48:00 AM:

They are not lobbyist, they are courtiers. He didn't promise anything about courtiers.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 21, 09:31:00 AM:

Just to pick a nit, government spending at Fed, State, and local levels accounts for 40% of GDP, not 30%.


-Anon Attorney  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon May 21, 09:39:00 AM:

Good correction, Anon Attorney. I had the 30% number in my head but did not verify -- I prolly just had federal and state.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 21, 12:43:00 PM:

Well, it's not Obama's fault that one can no longer rely on the USPS to safely deliver large amounts of unmarked and/or unreported currency.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 21, 02:24:00 PM:

From Richard40
even 40 % is not enough if you add in fed and state control of the economy through mandates or special interest tax subsidies. those 2 probably add in another 20%  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue May 22, 06:15:00 PM:

It’s more than 40%.

If you think of your typical American, the biggest checks they write each month are for the mortgage (if they own a home), car payment, utility bill. For many, healthcare is the largest expense but isn’t often paid by personal check.

The mortgage market is already effectively nationalized through Fannie, Freddie, HUD, FHA. There is no true market for homes in huge swaths of the country, because of this. If GAAP applied to the USA, Fannie and Freddie would undoubtedly be on the USA’s balance sheet, which would balloon the national debt even more. Our Debt to GDP ratio would then be higher than any of the countries in Europe already thought to be overextended.

GM is de facto nationalized. But the entire auto industry has been made subject to new rules which will radically change the mix of autos that are sold. In time, most of us will be forced to drive little electric toaster Trabants.

Utilities have been highly regulated for a long time, but the EPA is poised to use rule-making to new ends for central control.

Healthcare? Don’t get me going.

That’s why I call it The Borg.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jun 01, 12:27:00 PM:

Too bad the Knee-pad media isn’t covering this as it would if it were President Bush.  

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