Friday, July 1, 2011

Editorial: Court decision raises public money concerns

In Thursday's musing, the unnamed Courier editor careens from one concept to another, creating a limp, damp word salad. Did you let JJ write this one, Tim?

He writes, "Chief Justice John Robert (sic) said the provision 'imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups,'" and accepts it as writ without explaining how the ability of one to speak in any way limits the ability of another. Of course, if the Chief Justice doesn't understand this either, I spoze we'll have to give the editor a pass on that one.

He "won't debate whether the provision violated freedom of speech," which for most writers would mean he's neutral on the question, but he immediately goes on to "applaud the justices who recognized that possibility and walked on the side of caution." Right. The sort of caution that specifically allows corporations to spend as much as they like to buy offices for their favored candidates.

He calls the influence of big money on politics a "sad state of affairs," and finishes up by advertising the Republican push to eliminate all public money from Arizona elections. Apparently it's only sad when the money is nonpartisan.

In the name of "free speech," he advocates taking the megaphone away from the ordinary working person and giving it to the corporate huckster and his pro cheerleading team.

This sort of ridiculously distorted decision by the Supreme Court proceeds from a cascade of terrible past decisions. The idea that money is equal to speech is one. The idea that corporations are the same as citizens is another. They make it impossible for good sense to even be heard, let alone prevail. Arguing the points that follow from these cracked premises can lead only to deeper absurdity.

Forget campaign finance reform, it's not gonna come anytime soon. The only way to improve the quality of our representation is to organize the old-fashioned way, person-to-person, one vote and one ten-dollar contribution at a time. Given modern technology and the rise of social media this has never been easier, but real people have to get out there and do it in an organized, consistent way.


David Lundy said...

I don’t agree with the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people and entitled to the same rights and constitutional protections as people, but this only validates my premise that the Constitution says what it says, but it means what the Supreme Court says it means, and what you and I think it should mean doesn’t mean squat. Regardless, the answer to the problem lies in your last paragraph, i.e., the answer lies where it always has: in the people. Corporations apparently can spend as much as they like in an effort to “buy” elections, but do they really buy elections? Spend more money, sure, but buy elections? Do you know any citizen voters who have actually received money or any other compensation for having voted one way or another? Does anybody know any such voters? I for one have never been offered any money for my vote. Are we constantly bombarded by political ads denigrating one side of an issue or another? For sure. Do the corporations and big money candidates overwhelm the airwaves and the print media in an election year? Again, for sure. But to suggest that this fact is “buying votes” is to suggest that we as voters are merely sheep and incapable of overcoming the problem. Sorry, but I am not a sheep. Nor do I believe that the candidate who is not funded by organized fundraising committees should go to the State and simply ask for matching funds to compete with the other guy. The answer, Steve, as I said, lies in your final paragraph and at the ballot box. It lies with the people, the same place it always has.

Steven Ayres said...

Do corporations buy elections? Not in the cash-for-vote sense, that's way too inefficient. But there's no question that money is more that statistically significant in election outcomes, and by protecting money as speech, the Supreme Court clearly acknowledges that.

If I thought the money they spend to get what they want is a sure purchase, I wouldn't be living in this country, trust me. But it's abundantly clear that corporations have an unfair advantage in electoral politics and subsequently outsized and very negative influence on our political process.

This will not last. The only question is whether it will eventually take armed insurrection to change it.

David Lundy said...

And the explanation for that "unfair advantage" is that people are sheep, are unable to think for themselves, succumb to the overwhelming propaganda put forth by the corporate candidates? What other explanation is there? Torpor, sloth, apathy. You choose.

Steven Ayres said...

It's easy to blame the victim, as many people deserve those descriptions relative to electoral politics. But a torpid voter isn't likely to vote.

The problem is diseducation. Money buys elections by convincing the voter to accept a given viewpoint as true and useful. While it's not that hard to wedge the truth so that it amounts to a lie, we're living through another fad for the Big Lie -- balls-out, unvarnished lying on a large scale. This tactic is only effective when you have the organization and resources to ensure that the same lie comes from many mouths.

David Lundy said...

But you are not one of those who believes the big lie, are you? I'll bet not. But are you the only one who doesn't believe the big lie? Are the rest of the voters THAT susceptible to the big lie? Really? Is it even possible that the underdog, who would receive public funding, would not engage in his/her own big lie? And is that "big lie" just something that goes against your or my or anyone else's personal beliefs?

Steven Ayres said...

Now you're just yanking my chain.

David Lundy said...

Yes, I am pulling your chain, and I apologize for that. But I believe the American voters - the ones who actually vote - must be given a little credit for some intelligence. You seem to have some, and I can't believe you and I are the only ones.

birther t. bagur said...

Let us look at this in an efficient markets sort of fashion:
If carpet bombing elections with tons of anonymously compiled cash didn't work, these special interest groups wouldn't bother carpet bombing elections with cash gathered from secret donors.
The money would be spent doing something else.