Robert Weissman

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

Recent Articles

Sand in the Gears

The case for a tax on financial speculation.

Buy a cup of coffee in Manhattan, and the sales tax is 8.875 percent. Buy a share of Exxon on the New York Stock Exchange, and the tax rate is just a hair more than zero. Like other double standards that benefit high finance, the zero tax rate on financial transactions both reveals and reinforces Wall Street's massive power and privilege. But now a growing movement is coalescing around the idea of a financial--speculation tax, as an opportunity to confront Wall Street politically, shrink the bloated financial sector, diminish dangerous speculation, and raise significant sums of money to meet priority needs. The movement is drawing support among consumer, labor, and financial-reform groups associated with Americans for Financial Reform and also among climate-change and global-health campaigners, who hope a speculation tax can generate revenues for targeted purposes. The idea is attracting interest among congressional leaders and has the affirmative support of British Prime Minister...

Hearings Loss

It has been a long time since congressional hearings investigated real corporate and government abuses or serious social problems. But since 1994, the situation has gotten far worse: the oversight machinery is used for partisan purposes or simply left to rot.

Newt Gingrich's Contract with America was mainly a legislative manifesto. But the landmark 1994 election also gave Republicans control of congressional oversight and investigative duties. To oversimplify only slightly, Republican congressional hearings have been used mainly for three purposes—for partisan attack, to harass and hobble regulatory agencies, and to further the GOP's pro-corporate agenda. In general, the Republicans have abandoned any serious effort to use congressional oversight powers to challenge corporate capture of agency missions or to launch meaningful investigations of serious social problems—concentration of wealth, homelessness, lack of health coverage, corporate environmental abuses, and so on. Even the GOP's libertarian agenda has been selective, largely ignoring government attacks on the rights of citizens. While Republicans, joined by a number of Democrats, have legislated significant expansions in police powers of government through anti-immigration laws,...