Lobbying Dollars Corrupting Politics: Naked Robbery

Special interest lobbying dollars are influencing US politics greater than ever before, inhibiting the majorities voice and feeding gridlock in the halls of Congress. I expect social pushback to increase as larger portions of the population realize the naked robbery and demand representation on issues affecting their daily lives. Teddy Roosevelt’s Political Theft quote from 1912 provides a warning more prescient than ever.

“It is not a partisan issue; it is more than a political issue; it is a great moral issue. If we condone political theft, if we do not resent the kinds of wrong and injustice that injuriously affect the whole nation, not merely our democratic form of government but our civilization itself cannot endure.” – Teddy Roosevelt, 1912

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Crowdfunding Bill Stuck

Scott Walker recently wrote an article about the House Crowdfunding bill, which has passed in Congress, but is stuck in the Senate. Walker believes that the fears of fraud, originated by NASAA lobbying, are blinding the Senate from its true goals. The current house bill outlines the regulations and oversight that are necessary. Entrepreneurs face great difficulties raising capital, why should we be limited to investing only $500-1,000 annually through online crowdfunding?

“It seems a little crazy to me that you have to be an accredited investor to invest in a company, but you can go to Las Vegas and lose $10,000 at the table in an hour and you don’t have to be an accredited gambler to do that.”

The House Bill

The crowdfunding bill passed by the House lifts all of the foregoing prohibitions and requirements and allows a company to sell securities via crowdfunding sites and/or social networking sites so long as the company (and its intermediary, if applicable) comply with the following key restrictions:

  • The company may only raise a maximum of $1 million (or $2 million if the company provides potential investors with audited financial statements);
  • Each investor is limited to investing an amount equal to the lesser of (i) $10,000 or (ii) 10% of his or her annual income; and
  • The issuer or the intermediary, if applicable, must take a number of steps to limit the risk to investors, including (i) warning them of the speculative nature of the investment and the limitations on resale, (ii) requiring them to answer questions demonstrating their understanding of the risks, and (iii) providing notice to the SEC of the offering, including certain prescribed information. [From Walkers Article]

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius shared with his son Laertes critical advice that has withstood the test of time. The saying “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” is still used today and holds various meanings to its users. The full discussion between Polonius and Laertes revolves around the trip that Laertes is about to embark upon. Although the attitudes and preconceived notions towards finance and borrowing during Shakespeare’s time are greatly different, we see that the advice created still holds value in today’s modern financially intertwined societies.

The literal conversation that took place in Hamlet between Polonius and Laertes is just, to the unknowing reader, fatherly advice to his son who is about to travel and mingle in the dangerous land of Paris. The conversation goes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For a loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry” (Shakespeare). Polonius is saying that lending and borrowing money is a dangerous sport. It can greatly influence relationships and add an extra level of complexity to ones life. In today’s society, borrowing and lending money is much more regulated then during Shakespeare’s time.

The underlying principal of owing or lending an asset of great value to a person who might not make good on the arrangement still resides. Modern markets are much more efficient in connecting lenders and borrowers, mostly through financial institutions such as banks. These institutions add a level of security because of their size and backing. This backing comes in the form of legal action, insurance and collateral. If the borrowers in Shakespeare’s time where to neglect their obligations, the lender would be left holding the bag plus the added complexity of the damage to their relationship. Today, banks act as impartial lenders who minimize the risk through various resources, ultimately relieving as much of the possible dangers related to financing.

During the era of Hamlet, it is interesting to note the level of borrowing that was occurring. It is said “in the days when Hamlet was first staged, borrowing was epidemic among the gentry, who sometimes neglected husbandry to the point where they were selling off their estates piece by piece to maintain an ostentatious lifestyle in London” (eNotes). The attitudes of the upper class towards lending and borrowing money were generally negative. It was thought, during this time, that a proper gentleman should be able to carry his estate forward and provide for his family on with his own merits. The act of borrowing brought forth a perceived weakening of the persons’ social status and ability.

A more modern example of this age-old prophecy is the current European crisis. Weaker economies who are relying on a Euro-zone bailout, such as Greece and Spain, are living through the trials and tribulations of there past decisions. The Euro-zone as a whole is expected to relieve the financial burdens created by these weaker countries through financial support. Stronger countries, such as Germany and France, are faced with the decision to help their “friends” to the south ride out the turmoil.

The European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have all reigned in on the issue.  It is said that, “Germany is under pressure from the US, France and some other countries to go further than just expanding the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) to 40 billion Euros”… possible solutions include, “letting it borrow funds from the European Central Bank or private investors in order to buy euro-zone government bonds” (WSJ). It is becoming clearer that Greece and other struggling countries problems are not limited to the euro-zone, Europe, and just there markets. The social unrest and economic burdens stemming from these crises will damage the global economy for many years. The age-old saying from Polonius to his son seems to be holding true.

 

Shakespeare, William. “SCENE III. A Room in Polonius’ House.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. MIT. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. <http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/hamlet.1.3.html&gt;.

ENotes. “Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be – Shakespeare Quotes.” ENotes    Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. ENotes. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. <http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/neither-borrower-norlender&gt;.

Forelle, Charles, and David Crawford. “Euro-Zone Bailout Plan Progresses WSJ.com.” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal Wsj.com. Wall Street Journal, 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 28 Sept. 2011.            <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405297020422620457659889359099086.html&gt;.