Streetwise Professor

March 21, 2010

Twain Didn’t Know the Half of It, Because Bart Stupak Hadn’t Been Born Yet

Filed under: Commodities,Derivatives,Economics,Energy,Politics — The Professor @ 7:40 pm

Prior to the health care wars, I only knew of Bart Stupak for his sponsorship of the “Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices Act,” related to energy speculation, which led me to ask: What is fair manipulation?  Indeed, when I testified about energy speculation before the House Ag Committee in July, 2008, the first question I received was about Stupak’s testimony on the previous day, in which he had compared speculation in energy futures markets in the 2000s to the Hunt Brothers in 1979-1980.  That one was teed up for me: I replied that Rep. Stupak had it exactly backwards.  A comparison of the Hunts to what had transpired in the oil markets in ’07-’08 in fact demonstrated how speculation almost certainly was not causing artificially high energy prices.

Stupak’s statements on speculation just marked him as an idiot.  His star turn in the health care drama marks him as a hypocritical, unprincipled, posing, publicity slut.

After seizing center stage, gaining all sorts of press attention for being the leader of a group of representatives whose no votes threatened to derail passage of the health care bill,  and making it seem like his opposition was a matter of deep principles about life and abortion; at the moment when the publicity potential was greatest; Stupak agreed to vote for the health care bill in exchange for a promise that Obama would sign an executive order preventing the expenditure of any federal money for abortion. He gets the spotlight.  He gets to speak on the floor.  And his so-called principles get heaved overboard.

In a post earlier today (which has already gotten 28 comments over at SeekingAlpha), I quoted Mark Twain: “I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature, Congressman.”  Seldom were truer words ever spoken.  For at least Iscariot got 30 pieces of silver:  Stupak got a fig leaf.  And a phony one at that.  It is phony because an executive order cannot override a statute.  This is just something that Stupak can wave in front of the gullible; a way to have his cake and eat it too.  To pretend that he won a victory on abortion AND saved the health care bill.

In fact, he saved the health care bill, but at the cost of his purported principles, for as soon as night follows day, government funds will be spent on abortion under the bill that is about to pass.  But, no doubt, he will gull enough people in his district that the executive order is actually more than a worthless piece of paper, and bask in the limelight that he evidently craves so desperately.

It should also be noted that if it were genuine, Stupak’s “compromise” would in fact compromise a jealously guarded right of the branch of government he serves: it is the Congress that has the right to appropriate money, not the executive, and Congress would never willingly surrender that right to the president.  But since this is all theater, political cover, Stupak isn’t compromising that right at all.

Damn how I wish Mark Twain were alive today, for I think only his pen could do justice to the presumptuous, unprincipled, hollow men and women that go by the epithet “Member of Congress.”

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