The pro-corporate majority on the U.S. Supreme Court took steps last week to move the U.S. still farther toward government of, by, and for the fat cats and big corporations (as if we aren't already there).
They tossed out overall limits on how much rich individuals can contribute to political candidates, political parties, and campaign groups. Cumulative six- and seven-figure campaign donations are First Amendment free speech and can't be abridged, they said.
According to National Public Radio and Associated Press, 646 donors (out of around 120 million voters) hit the cumulative limit in the 2011-12 election cycle. So those One Percenters are the ones whose free speech rights can now soar.
This ruling follows the court's 2010 Citizens United ruling tossing out limits on corporate and union donations, also in the guise of free speech, affirming constitutional rights for corporate entities that owe no allegiance to this country and that aren't burdened with any responsibilities of good citizenship.
The court has in effect monetized free speech.
So guess whose free speech counts in the political world? The Supreme Court has dictated that we will have the best elected representatives that out-of-state fat cat money can buy.
Last week's ruling doesn't affect donations to independent 501-C-4 "social welfare" groups that flood the airwaves with those sleazy half-truth (at best) campaign ads. According to the same NPR/AP stories as above, the same 646 fat cats donated around $93.4 million to these independent groups in the last campaign.
I'm thinking last week's ruling also seems to make very fuzzy the line between free speech and bribery. If I offer a bribe, I'm expressing myself, right? Correspondingly, is it free speech for someone in government to ask for a bribe?
Oh, right. It's just that the worthies have a lot of demands on their time, and they can't see everyone. And they have to raise boatloads of special interest money for their re-election campaigns, since Americans won't support publicly-funded campaigns. So I'm sure you understand.
Money already buys access in congress. You can be sure it's not buying access to promote the interests of working stiff Americans or the poor.
So how long until the U.S. is like much of the rest of the world, where bribes are a way of doing business? I would argue this is totally incompatible with American-style democracy, or at least the idealized version that we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
For quite a few years, a large majority of Americans have said the country is headed in the wrong direction. I'm one of them, and this is one of the reasons.
But hey, the Supreme Court says it's okay.