Sunday, January 24, 2010

Does This Narrow New Supreme Court Ruling Serve The Best Interests Of Anyone At All-- Other Than Republican Politicians?



If you listen to too much Tweety on TV-- why he's on MSNBC instead of Fox is beyond me-- you may have the idea that no one is upset about the ruling by the 5 corporate justices on the Supreme Court that corporations-- including foreign corporations-- can buy every American election they want and Congress has no say in the matter. But that's hardly the case. Yesterday we looked at President Obama's weekly speech to the nation, in which he focused on the clear and present dangers Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy have imposed on American democracy, to the cheers of Republicans and the clinking of champagne toasts by banksters, lobbyists and corporate management. Even if you watched the video yesterday, it is worth reading the transcript:
One of the reasons I ran for President was because I believed so strongly that the voices of everyday Americans, hardworking folks doing everything they can to stay afloat, just weren’t being heard over the powerful voices of the special interests in Washington. And the result was a national agenda too often skewed in favor of those with the power to tilt the tables.

In my first year in office, we pushed back on that power by implementing historic reforms to get rid of the influence of those special interests. On my first day in office, we closed the revolving door between lobbying firms and the government so that no one in my administration would make decisions based on the interests of former or future employers. We barred gifts from federal lobbyists to executive branch officials. We imposed tough restrictions to prevent funds for our recovery from lining the pockets of the well-connected, instead of creating jobs for Americans. And for the first time in history, we have publicly disclosed the names of lobbyists and non-lobbyists alike who visit the White House every day, so that you know what’s going on in the White House-- the people’s house.

We’ve been making steady progress. But this week, the United States Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists-- and a powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence. This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. By a 5-4 vote, the Court overturned more than a century of law-- including a bipartisan campaign finance law written by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with elections by running advertisements for or against candidates in the crucial closing weeks.

This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way-– or to punish those who don’t. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.

I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.
All of us, regardless of party, should be worried that it will be that much harder to get fair, common-sense financial reforms, or close unwarranted tax loopholes that reward corporations from sheltering their income or shipping American jobs off-shore.

It will make it more difficult to pass commonsense laws to promote energy independence because even foreign entities would be allowed to mix in our elections.

It would give the health insurance industry even more leverage to fend off reforms that would protect patients.
We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

And we don’t intend to. When this ruling came down, I instructed my administration to get to work immediately with Members of Congress willing to fight for the American people to develop a forceful, bipartisan response to this decision. We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.

A hundred years ago, one of the great Republican Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, fought to limit special interest spending and influence over American political campaigns and warned of the impact of unbridled, corporate spending. His message rings as true as ever today, in this age of mass communications, when the decks are too often stacked against ordinary Americans. And as long as I’m your President, I’ll never stop fighting to make sure that the most powerful voice in Washington belongs to you.

Dave Johnson, over at Seeing The Forest isn't a politician; he's a businessman, but he sees the dangers as clearly as the president-- and worries that the Supreme Court has basically made Adam Smith's sanctified Marketplace just about irrelevant. The decision, he says, "shifts the business playing field away from competing in the marketplace with products and services, to purchasing government/legal/reguatory advantages, subsidies and monopolies." Now only size matters.
It is just more efficient to beat your competitors by buying legislation than it is by competing in the marketplace. When you can purchase $1 billion in tax breaks, subsidies, mandates, contracts, whatever by spending a few million on candidates/influence, etc. it just makes more sense to do so. The return on investment is just so much higher than building factories, spending on research, paying employees, and other tedious, time-consuming, capital-intensive work.

For some time companies have recognized that the rewards from lobbying outperform the rewards from competing in the marketplace, and this ruling just amplifies that. This 2006 New York Times article, Google Joins the Lobbying Herd, discussed how Google felt it had “no choice but to get into the arena” to start “spreading its lobbying dollars” around to politicians and quotes Lauren Maddox, a lobbyist for Google, saying the "policy process is an extension of the market battlefield." This supreme court ruling just clinches this shift away from markets.

The game is necessarily going to be to use the superior resources of larger companies to purchase barriers that block smaller, innovative companies from getting anywhere, and force them to be absorbed.

Companies that think they can opt out of this and continue to compete with innovation, superior products and services are just mistaken. Any company that doesn't see this change will find that their competitors are working to buy legislation/rulemaking against them, and won't last long.

It's going to take a little while for this to sink in, but it is inevitable now.

Unlike President Obama and, like the rest of us, Dave Johnson, Byron White has no stake in this fight. That's because the former All-American football halfback-- who played for the Colorado Buffaloes in college and then the Pittsburgh Pirates (Steelers) and the Detroit Lions, acquiring the nicknamed Whizzer-- passed away in 2002. Oh, and he served on the Supreme Court from 1962 to 1993. Many remember him as an anti-Choice defender of the unborn and a dissenter in the Roe v Wade decision. But he also dissented in the 1982 decision in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, in which he was very clear that corporate communications and individual freedom of speech were very different cups of tea indeed:
The governmental interest in regulating corporate political communications, especially those relating to electoral matters, also raises considerations which differ significantly from those governing the regulation of individual speech. Corporations are artificial entities created by law for the purpose of furthering certain economic goals. In order to facilitate the achievement of such ends, special rules relating to such matters as limited liability, perpetual life, and the accumulation, distribution, and taxation of assets are normally applied to them. States have provided corporations with such attributes in order to increase their economic viability and thus strengthen the economy generally. It has long been recognized, however, that the special status of corporations has placed them in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only the economy but also the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process. Although Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), provides support for the position that the desire to equalize the financial resources available to candidates does not justify the limitation upon the expression of support which a restriction upon individual contributions entails, 9 the interest of Massachusetts and the many other States which have restricted corporate political activity is quite different. It is not one of equalizing the resources of opposing candidates or opposing positions, but rather of preventing institutions which have been permitted to amass wealth as a result of special advantages extended by the State for certain economic purposes from using that wealth to acquire an unfair advantage in the political process, especially where, as here, the issue involved has no material connection with the business of the corporation. The State need not permit its own creation to consume it. Massachusetts could [435 U.S. 765, 810] permissibly conclude that not to impose limits upon the political activities of corporations would have placed it in a position of departing from neutrality and indirectly assisting the propagation of corporate views because of the advantages its laws give to the corporate acquisition of funds to finance such activities. Such expenditures may be viewed as seriously threatening the role of the First Amendment as a guarantor of a free marketplace of ideas. Ordinarily, the expenditure of funds to promote political causes may be assumed to bear some relation to the fervency with which they are held. Corporate political expression, however, is not only divorced from the convictions of individual corporate shareholders, but also, because of the ease with which corporations are permitted to accumulate capital, bears no relation to the conviction with which the ideas expressed are held by the communicator. ...

The Court assumes that the interest in preventing the use of corporate resources in furtherance of views which are irrelevant to the corporate business and with which some shareholders may disagree is a compelling one, but concludes that the Massachusetts statute is nevertheless invalid because the State has failed to adopt the means best suited, in its opinion, for achieving this end. Ante, at 792-795. It proposes that the aggrieved shareholder assert his interest in preventing the expenditure of funds for nonbusiness causes he finds unconscionable through the channels provided by "corporate democracy" and purports to be mystified as to "why the dissenting shareholder's wishes are entitled to such greater solicitude in this context than in many others where equally important and controversial corporate decisions are made by management or by a predetermined percentage of the shareholders." Ante, at 794, and n. 34. It should be obvious that the alternative means upon the adequacy of which the majority is willing to predicate a constitutional adjudication is no more able to satisfy the State's interest than a ruling in Street and Abood leaving aggrieved employees to the remedies provided by union democracy would have satisfied the demands of the First Amendment. The interest which the State wishes to protect here is identical to that which the Court has previously held to be protected by [435 U.S. 765, 816] the First Amendment: the right to adhere to one's own beliefs and to refuse to support the dissemination of the personal and political views of others, regardless of how large a majority they may compose. In most contexts, of course, the views of the dissenting shareholder have little, if any, First Amendment significance. By purchasing interests in corporations shareholders accept the fact that corporations are going to make decisions concerning matters such as advertising integrally related to their business operations according to the procedures set forth in their charters and bylaws. Otherwise, corporations could not function. First Amendment concerns of stockholders are directly implicated, however, when a corporation chooses to use its privileged status to finance ideological crusades which are unconnected with the corporate business or property and which some shareholders might not wish to support. Once again, we are provided no explanation whatsoever by the Court as to why the State's interest is of less constitutional weight than that of corporations to participate financially in the electoral process and as to why the balance between two First Amendment interests should be struck by this Court.

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At 10:04 AM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

The government was seeded to the Corporations back in the Eisenhower years. Ever heard of the military industrial complex (now 600+ billion year). Power over the years has been concentrated in the hands of a few. Perfection came in 2000 when the surpreme catholic political court installed their man George Bush in the white house. The court was further packed with conservative Catholics and wally, the corporation/church state is complete. As they say "to late to close the barn door as the horse is long gone".

At the same time this grab for power has put the country in a tail spin economically, politically and socially. All the kings horses and all the kings men won't be able to put this mess back together again.

Making money with money is stupid. Hoarding is stupid. Spending 2 billion a year to prepare tax returns is stupid. Tea baggers are stupid because they think the government is the problem when we have no representative government it is all owned by the Corporations and their well paid indentured servants the congress.

Time for humanity to wake up and realize wealth is without practical limit. Our ongoing design science revolution means what ever needs to be done can be done. Nature is intent on making us a one world humanity and a success. Weaponry to livingry.

Our institutions are in their twilight years the money economy is dead and since it is dead it can't tell us.

Time to start telling the truth and only the truth as the universe operates only on the truth and so must we if we are going to survive as a species.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous me said...

"Does This Narrow New Supreme Court Ruling Serve The Best Interests Of Anyone At All-- Other Than Republican Politicians?"

You could have asked the same question about Bush v. Gore.

But don't expect Obama to do anything about it. The last year has shown conclusively that Obama is good at nothing except public speaking. And I mean nothing.

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This latest supreme court ruling is disgraceful and a supreme insult to the working people in the United States. I believe that we are coming near to the point where a revolution will be the only solution to get back to where we have a government for and by the people. I, personally, will do whatever I can on a daily basis to anger the religious right and the Republican party. We need to make lobbyist and special interest groups illegal and we need to have big business and religions organizations and churches paying their share of taxes. I will in the future to whatever I have to do to defeat these bastards in politics from controlling our country for the interest of the rich, big business and the religious right. I am tired of being dictated to by the many incompetent asses we now have serving in our federal elected offices, i.e., the Congress and Senate. I will personally start a internet web site where I will promote a government for and by the people. I will reveal what many of our elected officials are doing in office and how they vote on issues that are negative to the working class. I have taken all that I will take at this point.


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