Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Activist Supreme Court

Its funny in a twisted way.
An activist Supreme Court overturns a century of laws and previous ruling and screwed all of us.
And conservatives/Republicans seem to love it. Now corporations can spend their money without limit in direct support of the candidates of their choice.
When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, he raised an amazing amount of money. Hundreds of millions of dollars, from millions of individual donors.
And the Supreme Court of the United States just made that into chump change. If the 10 biggest banks can give their employees 10's of Billions of dollars in bonuses, imaging how much they might be willing to spend to ensure that they are allowed to continue to make huge profits while taking ridiculous risks with other people's money.
And that's only the financial industry
Look at how much the Health Insurance industry has spent, all the while trying to hide how much they were spending, to oppose any real reform in the health insurance market.

Needless to say, I think this decision will turn out to be a disaster for this country. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Republicans and conservatives seem to love this ruling. I just wonder if now they will stop whining about activist judges.
I doubt it.


Matty said...

I'm not sure if you're interested in the actual (as opposed to caricatured) conservative argument for this decision, but I'll give it a shot.

Primarily, the 1st Amendment is absolutely clear that Congress cannot make ANY law that abridges the freedom of speech, of which political speech is the most vital. There just isn't any getting around what the Amendment actually says. Legislation like McCain-Feingold should have never been allowed into law in the first place.

Honestly, I'm somewhat ambivalent. I don't especially like the amount of money in politics but l'm also a big fan of the Constitution. It allows for methods of change and simple legislation just isn't one of those methods.

Further, I don't see where the fairness is in allowing corporations like The New York Times Co. or ABC, Inc., NBC Universal, or NewsCorp to engage in electioneering in accordance with their best interests while others are banned.

From a practical standpoint, legislation will always have loopholes and faults that can be exploited by one group or another so why not stop playing the game and allow corporations/unions to make their statements and have the public decide whether or not they agree? You seem to have this idea that all incorporated entities break for the GOP which isn't even close to true.

I'm not sure what created your visceral dislike of the corporations which employ 80% of the American public and provide the vast majority of the items we use every day. They're amoral and thus can only be logically judged individually - which I think is fair. Should they not be able to support or contest political decisions which will affect them and thus the individual workers whom the employ?

In the end, I must - on this rare occasion - agree with the ACLU when they say that it was struck down because it "is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it permits the suppression of core political speech."

Matty said...

Actually I kind of look forward to corporations and unions openly taking stands on issues instead of doing so surreptitiously.

Uncle Walt said...

I am always interested in an actual conservative argument.

It would have been nice if you used one that actually made sense.

The concept that the 1st amendment is absolute is ludicrous. We already accept a wide range of legislative restrictions on the freedom of speech.

The normal example is a prohibition on shouting fire in a crowded theater. I suspect that you agree that such an action would not be protected by the 1st amendment.

We have forbidden the broadcast networks, both radio and tv, from broadcasting sexually explicit material and even forbid using certain individual words that are deemed just too offensive. I suspect that you agree with these restrictions as well.

And we even accept limitations on political speech. The amount of money that you or I can contribute directly to a campaign has long been restricted. Corporations are still expressly forbidden from making direct contributions to political campaigns. Those restrictions were not struck down by this ruling. We forbid foriegn nationals from making direct contributions to campaigns as well despite the reality that foriegn nationals legally residing in this country are affected by the actions of this government as directly as the corporations that are the beneficiaries of this ruling. By your logic, foriegn corporations and foriegn nationals should also be allowed to spend their money in any way they want to directly impact political campaigns. I suspect that is not what you want.

None of the rights defined in the constitution is absolute.
Freedom of the press (or freedom of speech) for that matter, do on protect a publication that incites people to riot. It does not allow publications to blatantly lie about people in a way designed to hurt or defame those people. It doesn't allow for the publication of child pornography.

Freedom of religion doesn't allow for the consumption of illegal substances like peyote or marijuana. It doesn't allow for plural marriage or forced child marriage. It also doesn't allow for human sacrifice even if the virgin is a volunteer.

The Right to keep and bear arms doesn't include the right to own automatic weapons or artillery.

The right of peacable assembly does not include the right to mass in the middle of the street and stop traffic. Nor does it include the right to trespass on private property.

The 4th amendment forbids searching a persons place or things without a warrant. But we allow police to search your car for little or no reason if you get pulled over for a traffic violation.

The 14 amendment promises equal protection under the laws for all, yet we don't let children drink or vote or drive cars or sign contracts. We don't let blind people drive. You even support discriminating against people based on their gender in obtaining the civil contract called marriage.

So yes, I am always interested in an actual conservative argument.

This one can't really be the best you have got.

Aaron said...

Here's a crazy idea from someone who doesn't know anything about politics...cap campaign contributions at a certain amount (deemed sufficient to provide adequate support), the same for both sides, and allow whoever (corporation or individual) wants to contribute to that fund. Assuming it would be fully funded, it would still allow people/businesses to support their choosen candidate without giving either an unfair advantage nor the contributor the ability to push their own agenda just because they have lots of money.

Aaron said...

Then again, I'm sure there would be an easy way around that approach though...

Uncle Walt said...


Thanks for your comments.

Defining the size of the caps would be a devil of a problem. Running for the Senate in a large populous state like California or Texas has to cost more than running in a small or lightly populated state. I am not opposed to you idea, but it would not be simple to implement.

I have long felt that candidates for the House or the Senate should not be allowed to accept direct contributions from people who don't live in their state/district. I suspect that such a restriction would have been struck down by earlier Supreme Courts and would certainly be struck down by this one.

None of which would address the impact of this ruling. In this ruling the Court said that corporations can make unlimited independent expenditures in any federal race. So, as long as they don't coordinate their support with the campaign, which would be considered a direct contribution, they could buy all the TV and radio and billboard advertising they wanted and explictly support a candidate by name.

The reason that is scary is simple. Corporations have lots more money than you and I. Their exercize of free political speech could well drown out the speech of those who don't have all that money.

Marty said...

Sarah needs the computer so I have to do this from my phone but for now I will say that if it's scary to you that corporate money means your voice doesn't count then why is that not true of George Soros or any other billionaire? He can give more than most corporations and only represents his own interests. At least a corporation represents the professional interests of those regular folks who work or invest there.

Uncle Walt said...

"At least a corporation represents the professional interests of those regular folks who work or invest there"


You really think that corporations represent the interests of their employees?

Remember that a corporation's principle, some would say sole, responsibility is to make as large a profit as possible and thereby benefit their owners (stock holders).

The entire reason that unions exist is that corporations will, if allowed, screw their employees at every turn. I don't dislike corporations, but I also don't trust them. I know enough to know that my employeer has their own self interest at heart, not mine. Even the corporations that treat their employees well do so, not out of any real sense of benevolance, but because they understand that a well treated stable workforce can be good for their bottom line.

If you have even browsed through books that talk about the reasons for recruiting and retaining excellent people and treating them right, those books don't talk about being good to you employees because is the moral thing to do. As you have pointed out, corporations are amoral. The recommend treating their employees well as a strategy for maximizing profits.

As to your comment about George Soros, having my voice drowned out by George Soros or by Steve Forbes doesn't change the fact that my voice is being drowned out.

I return to my original example. In this last election, Barack Obama raised what was viewed as a huge amount of money, a huge fraction of it from small donors like me.

In future elections, I will still be able to contribute the same amount, but corporations will be able to spend far more than any candidate can raise. Right now, if a candidate puts out an ad, they have to take personal responsibility for the ad and can be held responsible for its accuracy.

Who is going to hold corporations responsible for their ads when they start lying about the candidate they don't like. Corporations have demonstrated repeatedly that they are willing to lie blatantly to the American people in pursuit of their goals. Do you think they will be any less willling to lie in a political campaign?

I still think this is a disaster.

And your argument in favor of this decision had more holes than a collander.

Wanna try again?