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.
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Today’s Econ Haiku:
Running of the bulls
It’s a Spanish tradition
They run to their death