Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.
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October 7, 2013 at 10:40 AM
The next big campaign finance case, McCutcheon vs FEC, will begin oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, government shutdown or not. It is at least as bad as 2010′s Citizen’s United, which struck down more than a century of restraints on corporate and union money in elections and affirmed “corporate personhood.” With McCutcheon, the plaintiff is asking that limits on individual contributions to candidates be struck down. As Michael Hiltzik, business columnist of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, these limits are a longstanding attempt to keep corruption out of politics. Even under current law, an individual could spread up to $3.5 million among candidates.
Both Citizens United and McCutcheon carry economic consequences. They ensure that America will be less fair and capitalism will be less competitive.
Today’s inequality, the worst at least since the Gilded Age, didn’t just happen and it isn’t merely a consequence of globalization and the rise of the creative class. It was purchased by the already unprecedented money in politics. One result is the least progressive tax system in decades, encouraging vast sums to be gambled in world capital markets rather than be used to expand existing companies, seed new ones and create jobs. Another is the increasing phenomenon of “rent seeking,” where giant corporations use their power to extract government subsidies and laws that allow for massive executive compensation, a near free ride while profiting from environmental destruction, taxpayer backing of a risky financial sector and thwarting competition.