I know I haven’t posted here in a while, but this article about the White House’s involvement in trying to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley put me over the edge and back in the game.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel has always had a special place in my heart for being the real basis for West Wing Deputy C.O.S. and childhood (okay, not just childhood) inspiration Josh Lyman, but this shit is inexcusable. The White House – through Emmanuel’s “gavel-wielding veins” – is backing Rep Carolyn Maloney’s (D-NY) amendment to the Investor Protection act of 2009 that would continue to exempt firms with market capitalization of less than $75 million from reporting requirements designed to begin in 2010. As if the White House trying to weaken a consumer-protection bill weren’t bad enough, there’s this graf in the Huff Post story:

The White House position, according to those familiar with Emmanuel’s argument, is that small businesses should not be the focus of onerous regulations because they aren’t the ones causing the problems. And if the Maloney amendment passes, it would allow Democrats to say they’re the champions of small business.

This is just appalling. Here’s a hint in trying to figure what is and what is not a small business: the use of the words “market capitalization.” Democrats can claim to be the defenders of small business with this amendment just like Republicans claimed to be the champions of the middle class with their tax breaks for the rich. Add to this John Nadler’s (D-NJ) amendment to extend it to firms with under $700 million in market capitalization, also in the name of “small businesses” according to his spokesman. Just in case anyone though that a major economic crisis would shock the country into really going after the Nero-esque financial sector, this is reality. Sorry.

When Americans think of small businesses, they think of this:







And that’s what politicians are counting on when they defend lightening regulation on $699 million firms. This is craven and misrepresentative with real consequences for our political culture. If we can’t trust the abstractions our politicians use – and we clearly can’t – then we can’t trust what they say in general. If our leaders are using different literal referents for their abstractions than we are (e.g. a half-a-billion dollar corporation as a “small business”) then public debate is an exercise in semantic games instead of policy. This is more or less what my thesis is about, so if you want another 100 or so pages on this issue and Marx, get back to me in May.