One can easily argue that money is the main problem in American politics today and is the most corrosive influence on America’s democracy. What percentage of the population thinks more money in politics would be good for our system of government? Is it not important to have, at least the ability, to limit corporate contributions? What do you think?
The US Supreme Court ruled in January 2010 that it is unconstitutional for congress to make laws limiting corporations’ financial contributions to the political dialogue, any laws. Congress and the president may now talk of legislating some set of laws yet, under some other pretense, to limit corporations “free speech” rights, but this is a red herring. If and when any laws are actually enacted, they will be struck down by the court, and all the while money will be pouring into and corrupting further the political system of the country.
Understand that the American people no longer have the right to legally restrain corporate monetary influence on their own political system. The highest court in the land now interprets the constitution’s first amendment as providing protection to “corporate citizens”, from “human citizens”. Read that again because this is not hyperbole, it is absolutely the real situation now. This does not bode well for the future of the nation.
Corporations first, nearly a century ago, persuaded the then US Supreme Court to recognize them as “citizens” of the nation, with many commensurate rights. They cynically and as it may yet turn out; ironically, claimed these rights under the 14th amendment to the constitution, an amendment enacted to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. So we have the following legal reasoning: The court says corporations are “citizens” under the 14th amendment. Money is a form of speech, and speech is protected under the 1st amendment. Therefore it is unconstitutional for citizens, the people, even through their elected officials in the legislative process, to limit the rights of other, corporate, citizens. The problem is corporations are not real people and are in fact creations of the state. They are not your neighbors, friends or families, no matter how hard they may try to appear to be. They are sort of “tin men” without hearts or souls. They may want to be human, but will not nor should they ever be. We have made a huge mistake in affording them the status they now enjoy.
We are now left, as far as I can see, with only two possible ways of reigning in corporate influence in our political system, in our democracy. The first would be if the court reverses itself and the second would be a constitutional amendment.
Be assured, the first is not going to happen. There is no amount of public pressure that will dispose the court to reverse their own decision, and frankly there really should not be. The constitution enshrines the members of the supreme court to lifetime appointments to insulate them from the whims of public opinion, so they are in a sense untouchables. The five judges who wrote the majority opinion are going to be on the court for some time yet. In a classic “catch-22″ we can only wait for members to retire or pass away but during that interval the corporations can institutionalized their agenda, making a change in the court’s ideological make up unlikely, or worse moot, because the political system will have been gamed beyond redemption.
As for the second, a constitutional amendment, let’s face it, it will be difficult. With everything Americans have on their collective plate at the moment and all the daily distractions of modern American life, I cannot see the society being able to complete such an arduous task. Not to mention that the corporations will be able to direct enormous resources at defeating this over the course of the several years this process would likely take. Anyway, in the end we are far too fragmented a society now to be able to revisit and agree to change a document like the constitution which is a fundamental instrument in maintaining the little cohesion we do have.
Mr. Obama raised a worrisome, record breaking $800 million in the last campaign cycle. According to the IRS, in 2005, corporate America was worth $23 trillion. Comparatively speaking they have unlimited resources. Corporations and politicians will not exercise self-restraint based on the people’s will nor what is good for the country. Corporations cannot do so by law as they have a legal, fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to do all within their power to increase the returns on their shareholders’ investments. The politicians will not because of fear. They fear they will be buried by their opponents’ corporate money, so they will have afford themselves of as much of it as they can.
Unless we see and comprehend the seriousness of what has just been done to our political system in the US and act to mitigate it, in pretty short order, I believe we may some day in the not too distant future, find ourselves talking about democracy in the past tense, and in hushed tones at that. A corporate fascism of the future will have no need to maintain the veneer of democracy nor tolerate any possibility of it’s return. Life under corporate control in 21st century may be comfortable compared to let’s say 14th century serfdom I suspect, but oh so unnecessarily diminished.