Thursday, January 21, 2010


The Supreme Court: Time for a Change

The Supreme Court has just made a decision that flies in the face of common sense. Spending by a corporation is equal to free speech. Corporations now can openly spend money to influence elections. Friends of corporations will have virtually unlimited assets at their disposal through the device of "independent expenditures," even though outright cash contributions to their campaigns will be limited.

The decision is wrong. It's just as wrong as the famous Dred Scott decision in 1857. We all know that the reason a corporation wants to spend big bucks on an election campaign is not to advertise its own point of view. Rather, the money is to be used to drown out all other points of view. Even though a large corporation, such as General Electric, contributes a sizeable fraction of our gross national product, it does not represent anywhere near a comparable fraction of the public. If a majority of the public wants a certain thing but General Electric doesn't and is willing to spend an unlimited amount of money to flood the news media with arguments for its view, guess who is likely to win the election?

In spite of past decisions by the Court, a corporation is not a person. As one judge mused, "it doesn't have a soul to be damned nor an ass to be kicked." A corporation as an entity can be sued for actions directed by its directors. The guilty directors as well as the mostly innocent stockholders are immune from prosecution. The corporation is a "person" only in the sense that it can be sued.

The "opinions" of a corporation are really the opinions of its board of directors, a body of usually not greater than two dozen wealthy men and women. Why should the views of this small body be given the same deference in our political lsystem as the views of ten million concerned citizens?

This decision puts us one step closer to a plutocracy and a long step away from democracy and representative government.


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