Follow us:

Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The Corporate States of America || Jon Talton

The Supreme Court left no doubt today that America will live under a Citizens United government. That decision allowed for unlimited political contributions by corporations and unions (the latter dying and being outspent by 15 to 1 or more). Today’s decision struck down a 1912 Montana law, written in the Progressive era to overturn the corrupting influence of the mining interests on that state. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said independent political expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

This is a comical assertion coming so soon after the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression, which at its heart was caused by deregulation, captured regulators and politicians bought and paid for by large corporate interests. Profits were privatized, losses socialized, none of the kingpins went to jail or even faced serious prosecution. Like Citizens United, the Montana decision goes against a century of precedents. And, to put a fine point on it, five activist justices — it’s difficult to call them conservative — are deciding the political, economic and social future for 311 million Americans.

We are embarking on an entirely new arc for this country. To call it “un-American” is only the beginning. It is without precedent in our history. Some may pine for the 1880s, but the nation is more populous, complex, facing greater challenges, lacking a frontier to exploit — and it will have a large, powerful federal government no matter who is in power. The stakes and consequences of corruption which invariably flows from big money, pace Justice Kennedy, are greater by orders of magnitude.

Big corporations and billionaires will rationally spend to influence policies that help their businesses, lacking any checks in law or in the form of a robust organized labor movement. They will not look to the public good or national interest, much less anything so sentimental as a social safety net or the public spending and tax policies necessary for economic mobility by most citizens. Risky banking, the Wall Street casino, an environmentally suicidal fossil fuels rush, the Military Industrial Complex (the fear mongering about “cuts” is well under way), trade agreements that hurt American jobs, pay-to-play privatization schemes… These are among the consequences of a government that is not broken, but “fixed.”

As today’s decision by the five makes clear, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

And Don’t Miss: How to make jobs disappear || NY Times Magazine

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Running of the bulls

It’s a Spanish tradition

They run to their death

Comments | More in ALEC corporate support, Citizens United, Occupy, Occupy Seattle, Occupy Wall Street, Politics and the economy


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►