DC Awash in Cash, Our Interests Washed Down the Drain

lobbyist_money Corporations are not people.  They do not have the same inalienable rights of people.  These are two core beliefs I hold.  The individual people who are owners of corporations have their individual rights but the corporation itself, a legal contract between those owners, does not have the same rights as if it were a human being, too.  Contracts are pieces of paper, not living, breathing human beings.

Sadly, five members of the United States Supreme Court disagree with me and decided today that corporations are in fact people and have the same rights to free political speech as individuals do.

Why does that matter?  Already, the degree of influence of corporate money through lobbyists, direct donations and other political actions has reached startling proportions.  One look at the messy legislative process in creating the competing health care reform bills and you can see the dirty handprints of corporate money all over the place.  One deal cut after another until all the “reform” has been removed from the final product with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel but with far uglier consequences.

But at least there were some attempts at limits to corporate influence such as the McCain-Feingold Act.

It matters because we as individuals, even if we all became actively involved in politics, still don’t have the financial resources of corporations.  We can’t afford to hire lobbyists, produce attack ads and smear campaigns and let millions of people know what we think.  As individuals (true human beings) we will have a limited influence on friends, family and community – and that’s only if we get involved.  Most people don’t.  The corporations will inevitably have outsized influence on the democratic process because they have deeper pockets and the infrastructure to pay attention and get involved.

You see, I’m not anti-corporate.  I don’t bemoan the spread of Starbucks or McDonald’s.  Corporations that are successful are a great example of capitalism at work – a system that I believe in.  But democratic capitalism has to respect the needs of the individual citizens as much as (if not more so) than the needs of the shareholders and consumers.  This is an important balance discussed by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in his book Supercapitalism.

But as we sit here bemoaning why our legislators can’t seem to step up to any of the real challenges we face, make the tough decisions, etc. we need to realize that they can’t do those things because it costs a lot of money to run for election and in order to win (and win again and again) they are beholden to the coffers of big business.

Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Socialists, your political views don’t matter here.  The question is whether you believe that corporations and their billions (yes, billions) of dollars should be allowed equal footing with you in the arena of political ideas.  I like a sumo wrestling match as much as the next guy, but only if both opponents are sumo-sized.  In this case, it is more like an ant fighting a sumo wrestler.  And I’m afraid to tell you, we’re the ant!

 

0 thoughts on “DC Awash in Cash, Our Interests Washed Down the Drain

  1. I was driving home when it came on the radio. I couldn’t believe it! What were they thinking?? Do all the shareholders have the same political pov? If not what are the remedies to prevent the company from supporting a political candidate that a stock holder is against? What about employees? If the corporations are now to be treated as individuals, shouldn’t they have the same limitations as people on the amt of $$ they can contribute to a single candidate? So many questions and not a single answer. and the receptionist wondered why I wanted a passport eventhough I am not planning a trip.

  2. @murisopsis – Well, the companies are still limited to the amount of money they can give to a single candidate.  What was at issue was whether a company can spend money to produce a film that slams a candidate, something that isn’t produced by the candidate or campaign itself but is independent of it.  The net effect of such a film (or other commercials – imagine “this ad paid for by Johnson and Johnson, who thinks Obama is a Kenyan”) is that the companies can espouse their political views much more widely and more easily than any of us regular individuals can.  @ZSA_MD – @jenessa1889 – @TheLatinObserver – @live_for_love – I’ve long had a less pessimistic view of the US than many other expats, people who regularly say they don’t see a point of returning to the US.  This decision, however, really causes me to wonder what life will be like ten, twenty years from now when big money has even more control over the political process.

  3. I’ve been plugging my ears…all these news has made me very cynnical since I moved up here.  I need  to go back down to LA to live an oblivious weekend.

  4. I agree with you absolutely! I listened to Thurs. MSNBC’s “Countdown” with Keith Olbermann. He ended with one of his special comments on this topic. It was scary….it IS scary. If a corporation has the same rights as a person, it should be held accountable for its actions but can’t put a whole corporation behind bars. We really need to protest this. Eienhower warned of the dangers of the military-industrial influence on government. And this will make it so easy for big companies to influence elections and how those elected vote once they’re in office. Isn’t this how fascism gets started? We’ve seen this before.

  5. Even with the McCain-Feingold restrictions, corporations still found ways to filter a lot o’ money into things like Political Action Committees (PACs), which in turn would speak against various candidates or causes. The decision yesterday has the potential to make it so corporations can fund whatever or whomever they want with an unlimited amount in the name of censorship… it’s ridiculous 😦

  6. I said on soullfire’s post too: I hope the American people are smarter than that – meaning, they’re smart enough to see through the fray of all these ads and advertisements. I can see the influence it will have on candidates, and I will hope that they understand corporations can’t cast a single, solid vote worth a million votes. The people still have to vote them in. And the people can be displeased with them, and create a lot of chaos to get them out. I don’t know, we’ll see what transpires… I smell a lot of propoganda, tightening rules from advertisemtn regulators, lawsuits… what a way to stimulate the economy, huh? @_@

  7. @epiginoskete – Thanks for suggesting it.  How do you get to the voting page?  I’ve always heard it exists but never figured out how to navigate my way to it from the Xanga front page.@Wangium – Seriously.  At one point while I was getting worked up about it I realized that maybe I just need to worry about my own little world and get less worked up about things outside my control.  But I also realized that that is exactly what the big money interests would like me to do.  Lay down and roll over.@Gma_Joyce – A secondary school classmate of mine responded to this post on Facebook with a quote from Benito Mussolini – “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”@yang1815 – Only if we get ourselves organized.@TheCheshireGrins – Public funding for all elections with strict caps.  That’s my suggestion.@arenadi – Just give in to the dark side…  Blech…@scorpiontattoo – The truth, though, is that Americans aren’t smarter than that.  Most of them get their news from very limited sources and can be easily swayed by a barrage of effective advertising.  If they (we) were smarter than that and could see through the fray of advertising, there wouldn’t be billions of dollars spent on advertising every year.  But the reality is that advertising works.  On top of it, there are many other ways the corporations can use their fund other than direction advertising, and those are the ways that will be most insidious.

  8. @christao408 – I’ve never been able to find it from the front page, only from searching, finding someone’s blog entry with the link in it, and then getting there that way. I bookmarked it in my favorites, because otherwise Xanga doesn’t make it easy to find, unfortunately.

  9. As an outsider watching all of this unfold – it too is disturbing. It was interesting to watch the coverage of Justice Alito’s reaction in the State of the Union address. I don’t know… I think the voice of the people have gotten lost and will continue to be drowned out.

  10. @ElusiveWords – It is interesting because, unlike most court rulings with which I disagree, I can’t understand the majority’s underlying legal principles.  Normally I would think, “Oh, I see where you’re coming from even if I don’t agree with you.”  This time, though, I’m left with only “WTF?!” as an inarticulate response.

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