Monday, January 25, 2010

Supreme Court Decision Invites More Corruption

I believe the government of the United States, as well as its courts, have allowed corporations to become more important than the people of the United States. The evidence? The number of American jobs that have been outsourced overseas. For years, some corporations have been violating their original charter according to American law: to act in the public interest.

So I'm not happy with the Supreme Court decision. In fact, I'm disturbed by the Republicans wildly cheering the decision and I'm disturbed by some of the justifications for the decision. Kevin Drum writes:
There's also the nature of corporations vs. individuals. Corporations do have First Amendment rights, but to call corporations mere "organized groups of people," as Glenn [Greenwald] does, seriously obscures some genuine distinctions. Modern corporations are far more than that, and long precedent recognizes this by allowing them fewer speech rights than individuals. ...it's perfectly defensible to suggest that corporations might also have more restricted rights when it comes to campaign speech.

On the other hand, there's no question that political speech is at the core of the First Amendment. Restricting commercial speech is one thing, but restricting political speech, no matter who's doing it, ought to raise much louder alarm bells.

I respect Kevin for trying to give a nuanced perspective but there are too many major problems. Corporations, far more than our government, dominate our society and there is very little the average citizen can do about it. Even without the Supreme Court decision, corporations have little trouble funding lobbyists, think tanks, friendly university research, sizable honorariums to sympathetic journalists for a one hour speech, and various other gimmicks that reflect the power not of an ''association of individuals," but very powerful people, usually small in number, who control corporations. That is a fact.

I have always despised the argument that the power of corporations is offset by the power of unions. The reality is that the people who control a corporation rarely number more than a hundred to two hundred people. Generally speaking, there might be a hundred thousand shareholders who own 30%, a thousand who own 15% and the rest is owned and controlled by a small number of wealthy people. In no meaningful sense is there democracy in most corporations. In contrast, a union might have 200,000 members, all of whom get one vote.

I don't mind people who have more money than I do. But I do resent when a wealthy person can grab a megaphone and drown out not only my voice but the voice of thousands. I don't really have a problem limiting wealthy people to $23,000 a year for political contributions and $2300 per candidate. Despite the fact that I have to think twice about a $50 contribution or two, I know ways to get my voice heard with the help of others who think along similar lines. If corporate contributions are unlimited, however, we could very easily lose our democracy.

Right wing leaders of the Republican Party love having more power than the rest of us. That's why they cheered the Supreme Court decision so loud. They have a cozy and corrupt relationship with the dark side of American business.

One of the possible outcomes of the Supreme Court decision is that it may open the door to foreign influence by investment in American corporations. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo points out that:
...the recent Supreme Court decision gives foreigners basically an unfettered right to spend money on US elections -- China, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, take your pick. The majority tried to paper over this. But now foreign corporations, foreign individuals and even foreign governments can use corporations as pass-throughs to spend millions or tens of millions of dollars supporting their candidate of choice in a US election.

In fact, why bother with normal corporations? Whether it's foreigners or a bunch of corrupt politicians, corporations law can be used for anything. Even if foreign corporations and foreign investors are forbidden from being involved in American campaigns, there would be nothing to stop them from buying a few American board members glad to take a few bucks and create a corporation whose only purpose is to influence politics. Of course there are wealthy right wingers like Rupert Murdoch who love power and money games far too much. Murdoch already has too much power even without the Supreme Court decision.

For a long time, too many Americans have been more worried about big government than big business. But it's big business that is dismantling the American way of life. The majority on the Supreme Court has just aggravated the problem.

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