Commentary

The Supreme Court’s Right-Wing Clique has Given Us a Great Opportunity

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Flash! The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision overturning the over 60-year-old ban on corporations giving money to political campaigns is not the end of democracy as we know it, or the onset of fascism in America, as some of hyperventilating progressives have been claiming.

Sure it’s an outrage to say, as the court majority did, that corporations have the same rights as people. But let’s face it: Corporations have long dominated the American political scene. They didn’t need to be free to donate in their own corporate names. They have had their political action committees to do the job, and that’s worked just fine for them, as witness the current state of the two pro-corporate parties in Congress, and the string of blatantly pro-corporate presidents we’ve had for as far back as I can remember.

In fact, the way I see it, this latest decision is a huge improvement. Having been granted the same First Amendment rights as individuals when it comes to free speech, corporations now can honestly and openly buy elections and lobby in their own names, instead of hiding behind such deceptive PAC names as the American Solutions for Winning the Future (oil industry) or Grassroots Arizona (real estate interests).

Now perhaps American voters will be able to see more clearly just who these companies are that own our politicians. We will be able to understand much more easily how our own interests are being trampled by the money and power of corporations.

It’s a terrible thing to have a supposedly democratic government that is actually owned by corporations, of course, and this certainly was not by any stretch of the imagination what the Founders had in mind when they spoke of “all men” being “born equal,” or what Abe Lincoln had in mind when he spoke of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” but that’s what we’ve got. We might as well make that as clear as possible, and this latest court decision does that really well.

Now we can tackle the problem frontally, instead of with the Rube Goldberg approach we’ve had up to now with PACs and campaign finance laws that really just forced the reality of corporate influence into hiding.

We now have the opportunity to unite people on the left, middle and right who find the idea of corporate money buying votes and government officials to be repugnant–and this is not just a concern of the left–to once and for all root out this evil.

The best solution would be a national campaign for a new Constitutional Amendment–one which would specifically define the First Amendment as applying to individual human beings. And there is such a campaign! Check out movetoamend.org.

This could also be a great teachable moment. If corporations are to have the same free speech rights as a person, shouldn’t corporations also have the same responsibilities and the same punishments when they break the law? For example, if a corporation takes actions which cause workers to die, or which destroy the environment of a community and cause widespread cancers, shouldn’t the people who made those criminals–the managers and the major shareholders who backed those managers–be held criminally responsible?

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He is author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003) and The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at thiscantbehappening.net

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4 Responses for “The Supreme Court’s Right-Wing Clique has Given Us a Great Opportunity”

  1. mcthorogood says:

    The U.S. Federal Reserve is a private corporation. Today the third largest line item in the federal budget, behind military and social expenditures, is interest paid on the national debt. We are taxed to pay that interest, and the profit made by the Federal Reserve can be used to influence elections because corporations are entitled to free speech? Something is wrong.

  2. Jeff Norman says:

    Dave, you’ve just endorsed a proposed amendment that, if passed, would authorize the government to ban the corporation that’s sponsoring it from engaging in such political speech. Apparently, these self-described saviors of America don’t want to have the right to do what they’re doing. Beautiful!

    Actually, it’s even worse, because their website says “human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.” That means they’re talking about all constitutional rights, not just the First Amendment. In other words, these geniuses are calling for police to have the right to enter corporate property anytime they want without a search warrant or the property owner’s permission, because corporations aren’t entitled to Fourth Amendment protection since they aren’t persons.

    This might shock you Dave: The Supreme Court didn’t say that corporations are people. That nonsense is just the rhetoric of very confused people who don’t understand the Citizens United decision, yet think they’re qualified to restore democracy for all of us.

    I’m with the big bad conservative justices, because they would never mutilate the Constitution as you and the activists you endorse would.

  3. My Ass!!!

    ‘Shadow Elite’: Did The Supreme Court Just Trash Democracy and the Free Market?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janine-r-wedel/shadow-elite-did-the-supr_b_439419.html

    In a much-debated 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to strike down regulations that stretch well back into the last century (as well as a portion of the 2002 McCain-Feingold act) prohibiting corporations from using their general treasuries, without monetary limits, to finance ads that explicitly call for the victory or defeat of a candidate.

    The vote, the balance of which was tipped by the court’s conservative majority, has been touted by some as a victory for principles of freedom. Far from it. The decision is poised to aid and abet the further intertwining of state and private power–the quintessence not of a “free market” but of a communist state. And the decision offers the shadow elite even more opportunities, sans government oversight or public input, to skew public policies to their own agendas. Through direct campaign contributions they are now more empowered than ever to use their corporate affiliations for greater leverage elsewhere.

    The justices have laid the groundwork for an even stronger “Government Inc.” Most of the work of the federal government today is performed not by government bureaucrats but by a vast off-the-books “shadow government”–the consulting firms, companies, nongovernmental organizations, and “Beltway Bandits” that occupy entire high-rise bastions in the Washington suburbs. Many contractors work solely or primarily for the government. For instance, the consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, with more than 13,000 employees in the Washington area alone and whose clients include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Health and Human Services, acquires the bulk of its $4.5 billion in annual revenue from government contracts. And more than 90 percent of the business of the now infamous Blackwater (renamed Xe), the private security contractor whose questionable activities in Iraq have done severe damage to America’s reputation, is in government contracts. Contractors, of course, are not subject to the same rules as civil servants; contractor executives, unlike government leaders, are seldom dragged before congressional committees for hostile questioning when their activities come under fire.

    By allowing companies to spend without limit on their pet candidates, the court’s decision promises to further embed such contractors, enhance the entrenched culture of dependency, and make already cozy arrangements completely incestuous.

    The shadow government knows little competition–the embodiment of a market system–but is instead born and bred on government largesse. The shadow labor force, which has grown dramatically in the last two decades, now comprises three-quarters of the people who work for the federal government. It has also grown up from supplying things like food service, printing, and landscaping to also routinely performing core government functions. Contractors today draft official documents, choose and oversee other contractors, run intelligence operations, control homeland security databases, execute military and occupying operations, and manage federal taxpayer monies doled out under stimulus plans and bailouts.

    Competition in the free-market sense–adherence to the “discipline of the market”–is not what drives the companies of the shadow government. Far-reaching legislative and policy changes instituted since the Clinton years have transformed contracting rules to make government contracting less “burdened” by competition and government oversight while also less transparent. The companies promote themselves through networking and politicking to “win” not-always-competed contracts and keep the largesse coming. It helps to enlist former government executives. Thus Booz Allen Hamilton, which a former CIA deputy director dubbed “the shadow intelligence community,” has employed at least three vice presidents who previously served as intelligence agency directors and has hired, or had on its board, a number of former defense and intelligence officials. Such efforts are richly rewarded. In the Pentagon alone, for instance, the Center for Public Integrity found that, over a period of six fiscal years, no-bid contracts accounted for more than 40 percent of its contracting–with $362 billion going to companies without competitive bidding. Some companies are, in fact, the only game in town and have no competitors. Today one firm has acquired a virtual monopoly on electronic voting machines.

    In the “blended” workforce of the shadow government, new forms of governance are being created that fuse the power of the state with the agendas of “private” companies. The public is familiar with the excesses of Xe (Blackwater), but companies such as Booz Allen, Accenture, Lockheed Martin, and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) that daily stand in for government and influence policy may be far more insidious (communism turned on its head). Many public priorities and decisions are driven by private companies instead of government officials and agencies that must answer to citizens, with officials only signing on the dotted line. In numerous reports, government investigators (such as the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog agency of Congress, and inspectors general of government agencies) have asked whether government has the information, expertise, institutional memory and personnel to manage contractors–or is it the other way around? And who really sets policy–government or contractors? In even as critical a function as homeland security, much government work is substantially in the hands of contractors rather than those of government officials who are sworn to uphold the Constitution. In one instance, the GAO warned–albeit in its typical bureaucratese–about the Department of Homeland Security’s loss of control over decision making, saying that the practices of the DHS encourage “the risk that government decisions may be influenced by, rather than independent from, contractor judgments.”

    By permitting companies to bankroll their candidates, last week’s decision leads down the road to communism–in reverse–toward the mother of all state-private mergers. Now, even more than in the past (think Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the “Senator from Boeing”), a government contractor can virtually “buy” a legislator, with his blessing design or influence policy to have a built-in demand for the goods or services that it provides, and enjoy readymade support from the legislator both for favored policies and future government contracts. Ever-more interdependent government and business march in lockstep and unaccountable shadow government becomes ever bigger.

    And what of the shadow elite? Thanks to the Supreme Court decision, they can capitalize on an even more hospitable environment. Flexians, of course, test all the rules–those of the government (accountability) and those of the private sector (competition). Snaking through government, business, think tanks, and media in not-fully-revealed roles–and always in pursuit of their own agendas–flexians now can also, almost unlimitedly, use their company affiliations to buy legislative influence and further enhance their agenda-serving opportunities. They can take off their gloves (if they ever wore any) because they have been handed more points of entry from which to maneuver policy toward their own agendas.

    Far from sounding the bells of freedom, the Supreme Court has further imperiled government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Whether the world’s model democracy can be counted on to act in the national and public interest is more questionable than ever.

    (((3)))

  4. Nick says:

    Another oldie but goldie from the ethnic cleansing-overseeing “courts”:

    The ruling was written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. In support of his argument that the interest of the states in a “pure” gene pool outweighed the interest of individuals in their bodily integrity, he argued:
    “ We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. ”
    Holmes concluded his argument with the infamous phrase “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

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