Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Comes Home Rich

Bill Tatro
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Posted: Nov 17, 2011 12:01 AM

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where is Jimmy Stewart when you really need him? 

If you remember, the Frank Capra classic features Jimmy Stewart as Jefferson Smith, Boy Scout hero tapped to replace a deceased U.S. Senator. 

As corruption runs rampant, Smith (Stewart) is assumed to play along with whatever is proposed by the statewide political machine.  However, in one of the great Senate filibuster scenes, Smith (Stewart) fights for truth, justice, and the American way by taking on the machine and ultimately emerging victorious as he collapses in a filibuster heap. 

Sounds a little like Superman. 

Well, both Clark Kent and Jefferson Smith are heroes of mine.  I wonder what JS would say today if he learned that Congressmen and Senators come to Washington, DC in the main, with limited wealth (sometimes with an exception), and leave with eye-popping assets. 

Somehow, these so-called pillars of our political system have been able to exclude themselves from insider trading, the very same activity that resulted in prison sentences for Raj Rajaratnam and Martha Stewart. 

The advantage of being on a committee and learning where a natural gas pipeline will be installed, or which companies will receive government grants seems so advantageous that an idiot should be able to achieve financial success. 

Of course, Congress is certainly filled with a lot of those, and they make the assumption that without this advantage they would not be able to live on their measly salary and government expense accounts. 

Just examine the before and after net worth data on dozens of Congressmen, even in your own state, and not only will you be stunned, you’ll also understand why many people seek higher office.  Many years ago, my ex-wife’s grandmother’s father was the mayor of Buffalo, NY. 

In those days, people would spend tens-of-thousands of dollars to achieve a job that paid a few thousand dollars per year. 

On the face, you would ask, why? 

Family members would look, smile, and simply say “why not, it’s public service,” and perhaps an opportunity to get into the candy store. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Insider trading is just another perk, like a good parking spot. 

Wouldn’t that be worth a filibuster? 

If Jefferson Smith were here today, you know what he would say.