Oligarchy and the revolving door

There are two kinds of revolving doors between business and government.   The first is when people come from the world of business, usually temporarily, to make policy in government.

I don’t think this is necessarily wrong.  If you are making policy on a complicated field, such as finance, you want people who know something about the subject, and often as not that will that will be people who earn a living in that field.

Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was a stock market speculator in the 1920s, trading on inside information and manipulating the market.   But when he became the first chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (1932-1935), he outlawed this practices.   His experience made him a better regulator.

The second is when government regulators and policy-makers plan to move on to jobs in the industries they regulate and make policy for.

Neil Barofsky, who was special inspector general in charge of the oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) from 2008 through 2011, wrote about how he was warned that he would make himself unemployable by being too zealous about doing his job, but that he might have a good post-government career if he toned town his reports.

He said he always realizing that doing his job was incompatible with a future job in finance or a higher federal appointment.  He is now a law school professor.  He is an exception.


Ex-Presidents themselves often sit on corporate boards of directors or take six-figure speaking fees from corporations or trade associations.   Bill Clinton has taken this to a whole new level.   He and Hillary Clinton have received $125 million in six-figure lecture fees, mostly from large corporations and banks, since he stepped down in 2001.

Only a naive person would think the corporations and banks would have enriched the Clintons like this if they were not grateful for favors done in the past and hoping for more favors in the future.

Donald Trump is in a different category.  He is not a sleazy politician or public official who does favors for business people and hopes for something in return.  He is a sleazy business person who does favors for public officials and hopes for something in return.


Congress has its own revolving door.


Congressional representatives commonly seek post-government jobs as lobbyists, rather than going back home.


This is one reason why policies that are both popular and desirable—prosecuting financial fraud, breaking up the “too big to fail” banks, raising the minimum wage—meet with such resistance in both the legislative and executive branches.


Through the Revolving Door: Most Former Congress Members Become DC Lobbyists by Mint Press News Service.

On Capitol Hill, the door swings both ways by Sheila Kaplan for Investigative News Service.

How Obama failed to shut Washington’s revolving door by Josh Gerstein for POLITICO.

Here’s How the AP Should Have Written Its Hillary Clinton Article by Ryan Grim for the Huffington Post.

The Clinton System by Simon Head for the New York Review of Books.

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