Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court on Political Corruption; Open the Sluice Gates!

Thomas Nast, The Senate of the Trusts

The Supremes undid a century's worth of campaign finance reform yesterday. From now on, the United States really will be the best republic money can buy. I'm not counting on our legislators to do the right thing, or to even find the nerve to do it.

Health insurance reform is effectively dead, and the only thing I relish about it is watching the tea-baggers complain when their premiums go up or their policies get canceled when they become ill. Folks, when you get that increase or that cancellation notice in the mail, remember that this is what you voted for. Enjoy.

For the last thirty years, our politics has been the same old show every night. Reckless Republicans, with Over-Cautious Democrats chasing behind them, charging right over a cliff. I now expect this to continue for the rest of my life into the permanent right wing junta (with its punitive social policies and endless inconclusive wars) that is in all of our futures.


A commentator on the radio this morning suggests that if corporations legally are people, then maybe they should run for public office. Bank of America for Congress anyone?
Digby suggests that this is a great way to eliminate the middle man, the voters.


Anonymous said...

The only teeny-tiny hope I see in this is that the labor unions can also buy off some politicians, and perhaps it is naive, but I can't help but think "maybe they'll use this opportunity to do some good for working people like Joe" who is a union stagehand.

I'm not holding my breath, however.

rick allen said...

I find myself rather conflicted over this. The effect will probably be very bad for our politics. Still and all, I am what used to be called a liberal on the first amendment. Freedom of speech, to me, is one of the absolutes. Talk of amending the constitution to "tighten up" restrictions on speech send chills down my spine.

I know that General Motors is not a person. Neither is the Sierra Club or the Democratic Party. So I don't see why collective speech is any less deserving of protection than individual speech.

Perhaps I am less alarmed because I already consider out polity essentially a plutocracy. On occasion we the people are given a limited choice between two candidates. But no one can run for even the most minor office without spending a great deal of money, money which is given with hidden strings.

So, I suppose I see some silver lining in the fact that, from now on, we will at least know that Senator Vile got a million dollars directly from WalMart, and not from the Citizens for Responsible Government PAC.

I keep asking myself if politics is really more venal than in the past. I feel that it is, though my head knows that, historically, it has really always been this way.

Counterlight said...

My first reaction in resignation. The Second Gilded Age is here to stay for the rest of my lifetime. Why not just sit back and enjoy the slide?

Then I remember what Stendhal said. He described resignation as a ridiculous courage where a fool allows himself to be hanged without a peep of complaint.

rick allen said...

The following by Roy Fuller is a favorite of mine.

It well illustrates the satisfaction of resignation, but also its dangers:

Now that the barbarians have got as far as Picra,
And all the new music is written in the twelve tone scale,
And I am anyway approaching my fortieth birthday,
I will dissemble no longer.

I will stop expressing my belief in the rosy
Future of man, and accept the evidence
Of a couple of wretched wars and innumerable
Abortive revolutions.

I will cease to blame the stupidity of the slaves
Upon their masters and nurture, and will say,
Plainly, that they are enemies to culture,
Advancement and cleanliness.

From progressive organisations, from quarterlies
Devoted to daring verse, from membership of
Committees, from letters of various protest
I shall withdraw forthwith.

When they call me reactionary I shall smile
Secure in another dimension. When they say
'Cinna has ceased to matter' I shall know
How well I reflect the times.

The ruling class will think I am on their side
And make friendly overtures, but I shall retire
To the side furthest from Picra and write some poems
About the doom of the whole boiling.

Anyone happy in this age and place
Is daft or corrupt. Better to abdicate
From a material and spiritual terrain
Fit only for barbarians.

Mac said...

Can you explain why this opens the gates to corruption? The SC found that limits on spending on speech are unconstitutional, not contributions to lawmakers, which were explicitly reaffirmed. Aren't the big corporations that own MSNBC spending lots of money every night to put Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on the air? What does that have to do with corruption? Corruption is more like when you say, give a lawmaker millions of dollars in return for a vote - see "The Cornhusker Kickback" or "The Louisiana Purchase." Of course, in those cases, somebody else's money is being forcibly taken from them in order to execute the bribe, making that theft plus corruption, but you get the point.

Counterlight said...

"Aren't the big corporations that own MSNBC spending lots of money every night to put Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on the air?"

Rupert Murdoch for Senator from Australia in 2010!

Hey, he could win!

And if corporations legally are people, then let's see one run for office. Cut out the middle man.
Why not? They could win.

Counterlight said...

"Can you explain why this opens the gates to corruption?"

No, I suppose not. Of course there is no relation between copious amounts of money and political access and influence. I can't imagine corporations spending lots and lots of money to influence Congress, the Administration, and the creation of policy. I can't imagine a situation in which congressional representatives pass regulatory legislation effectively written by lobbyists for various businesses. Of course, our corporate citizens would never remind a legislator contemplating a difficult decision where the money for his/her campaign came from. I'm sure that I, a community college professor at a college in the Bronx, can call my senators right now and they will drop everything to listen to my objections to any particular policies.

Mac said...

Well, actually, Counterlight, it's a serious question. If you had argued this gives outsize influence to corporations, well, that remains to be seen - not to mention who benefits, after all, from that influence - but it's a logical position. In what way, though, does this have anything to do with corruption? The ruling is not dealing with money given to lawmakers, but to money independently spent to advocate a position. The lawmaker is never in the conversation.

My personal favored reform is to restrict contributions to political candidates to citizens eligible to vote. That would put PACs out of business immediately, except for those which could credibly tell a lawmaker that when it speaks, its members listen and open their checkbooks. I suppose, if corporations are treated as people, such a reform might be unconstitutional under Citizens United. Then again, as I said, the law restricting contributions was not the subject of the ruling.

JCF said...

The Second Gilded Age is here to stay for the rest of my lifetime. Why not just sit back and enjoy the slide?

Then I'll probably be "enjoying the slide" from my grave, Doug.

I'm not saying that melodramatically (or suicidally) . . . just actuarially.

I'm 48, with no health insurance, and (now) no prospects for any. 1400 people w/o health insurance DIE EVERY DAY here (in "The Last, Best Hope on Earth" }-p), BECAUSE they lack health insurance.

How long can I avoid being one of their number?

Anonymous said...


Sometimes I wonder if I should emgirate somewhere else, but a Facebook friend pointed out that doing so might be giving the "conservatives" exactly what they want - a mass exodus of liberals out of the country. He suggested this is why they do things like this ruling, or oppose marriage equality, or green energy initiatives, or single-payer universal health care a la HR676, etc etc etc.

Counterlight said...


I was describing resignation as a temptation, not as a solution. Note my inclusion of Stendhal's description of resignation as a ridiculous courage for fools.

Since the Supremes and Mac now declare money to be free speech, I wish I had enough free speech to buy TV time and an entire TV news network to advocate what I think is the only real solution to the healthcare crisis, Medicare for everyone. We already have a single payer system that works better than Canada's or Britain's. It should do what Harry Truman originally intended it to do, cover everyone. It will never happen. The insurance and health industries will use ship loads of free speech to keep anything like that from ever happening.
Money may or may not be free speech, but it is definitely power; a power that frequently trumps the voters.

I'm wondering if that Rube Goldberg bill out of the Senate will happen now. Deeply flawed as it is, it's still better than what we have now.

Counterlight said...

If the idea of Medicare for everyone ever went on a ballot, I bet it would win in a landslide.
I'm sure that's what the health and insurance industries fear most, and they will use all their considerable resources to keep that from ever happening.