Thursday, January 21, 2010

The return of the Robber Barons

Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.
-- Abraham Lincoln
Those words, from an 1864 letter, are in the process of becoming reality.

The Supreme Court began granting corporations rights as "people" starting with the 1886 Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, which included the following statement:
The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.
Interestingly, this was not a determination by one of the Justices, but part of the headnote, written by court reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis. However, corporations took this statement and conflated it with information from several other court decisions over the years, leading to a legal determination that corporations now have legal status as persons, to include free speech.

Normally, this would not really be an issue to the average citizen, until today.
Supreme Court rejects limits on corporate spending in electoral campaigns

A divided Supreme Court on Thursday swept away decades of legislative efforts to restrict the role of corporations in election campaigns, ruling that severe restrictions on corporate spending are inconsistent with the First Amendment's protection of political speech.

The court split 5 to 4 over the ruling, with its conservative members in the majority.

"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought," the court said in a decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. "This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."

President Obama sharply criticized the decision, saying it gives "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and represents "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."

In a statement released by the White House, Obama said the ruling "gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington -- while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates." He said he was instructing his administration "to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue" and coordinate with Democratic and Republican leaders on a "forceful response."

The decision upends the court's precedent that corporations may not use their profits to support or oppose candidates, and it rejects a large portion of the so-called McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act that the justices had declared constitutional just six years ago. It seems likely to apply to the political role of labor unions as well.

The decision does not address the restriction on direct contributions to candidates, and it upholds disclosure requirements for groups that mount advertising campaigns for and against candidates...
Rep. Alan Grayson saw this coming, and sees very clearly the dangers of allowing corporations to spend billions of dollars electing the lawmakers who will pass laws in the best interests, not of the people of the United States, but the corporations. He's set up an on-line petition, which reads:
Unlimited corporate spending on campaigns means the government is up for sale and that the law itself will be bought and sold. It would be political bribery on the largest scale imaginable.

This issue transcends partisan political arguments. We cannot have a government that is bought and paid for by huge multinational corporations. You must stop this.
Companies still won't be able to give money directly to federal candidates, but they'll be able to spend billions of dollars on attack ads, direct mail, and those wonderful robocalls that we all love.

In other words, the corporations who just brought the world's economy to the brink of collapse will be allowed to buy and sell the votes of our government. If this is allowed to stand, the Robber Barons will return in force.

Sign the petition.


Grung_e_Gene said...

Harry S Truman
You can always count on the Republicans, in an election year, to remind the people of what the Republican Party really stands for. You can always count on them to make it perfectly clear before the campaign is over that the Republican Party is the party of big business, and that they would like to turn the country back to the big corporations and the big bankers in New York to run it as they see fit. ~ Address at the National Convention Banquet of the Americans for Democratic Action. May 17, 1952

Paul Ellis said...

You know, Slam and Eman are over there hating on you pretty hard. You should probably go slap them down.

Nameless Cynic said...

I don't doubt that you're right. Doesn't bother me in the slightest - neither one is worth my time.

Slammy is easy. When I let you guys vote him off the island, he'd stopped actually having an argument, and was reduced to nothing but random insults. So he wasn't a loss, really.

Eric, on the other hand, I'm not clear about. He wanted to debate, then, when faced with arguments he couldn't refute, he grew infuriated.

But, in both cases, they've grown some kind of weird obsession. I've pointed out that Eman has gone so far as to turn into a hate-site for me and Diogenes - admittedly, Dio keeps going there and poking at him, but I've been ignoring him for quite some time, and plan to keep doing so.

Both of them keep sending me messages, which I tend to drop into the trash unopened - Slammy has stopped using his log-in, so I have to check the content of anonymous messages to see that it's him. I'm not clear why they're both obsessed with me, really. I guess I should be flattered, if it wasn't so weird.

But in either case, I'm not going to feed their obsessions. They're creepy little stalkers, and I'm happy to let them stay over there in their own little corner, masturbating furiously over the thought of me interacting with either of them again.