Friday, January 29, 2010

America's Soft Money Apocalypse

This week the Republican appointee dominated US Supreme Court handed over ownership of the American political system, lock, stock and barrels to the corporations.

For over a century, the US has slowly put some limits - too few, too feeble - on how much corporations can bribe, bully or intimidate politicians. On Tuesday, they were burned away in one whoosh. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations can suddenly run political adverts during an election campaign - and there is absolutely no limit on how many, or how much they can spend. So if you anger Goldman Sachs by supporting legislation to break up the too-big-to-fail banks, you will smack into a wall of 24/7 ads exposing your every flaw. If you displease Exxon-Mobil by supporting legislation to deal with global warming, you will now be hit by a tsunami of advertising saying you are opposed to jobs and The American Way. If you rile the defence contractors by opposing the gargantuan war budget, you will face a smear-campaign calling you Soft on Terror.

Representative Alan Grayson says: "It basically institutionalizes and legalizes bribery on the largest scale imaginable. Corporations will now be able to reward the politicians that play ball with them - and beat to death the politicians that don't... You won't even hear any more about the Senator from Kansas. It'll be the Senator from General Electric or the Senator from Microsoft." In 2008, Exxon Mobil made profits of $85bn. So if they dedicated just 10 percent to backing a President who would serve their interests, they would have $8.5bn to spend - more than every candidate for President and every candidate for Senate spent at the last election. And that's just one corporation.

We still have the occasional attempt by right wing columnists in the CanWest swamp trying to justify Harper's attempt a year ago to wipe out Canada's political subsidy program. Considering that public funding of political parties and Canada's restrictions on political spending help us avoid the legalized bribery of the American system - to a degree at least, this was far worse than just an attack on the opposition parties. It was an attack on the integrity of the entire Canadian political system.

You thought the American system was dysfunctional before? This court decision has insured that nothing that might trouble the sleep of America's corporate giants will ever make it through the American legislature again.

1 comment:

kirbycairo said...

This reinforced my point that democracy is not a set of circumstances but an ideal toward which we must constantly work toward. And conditions have gone over the past few years in many Western countries, it seems that we are moving away from the ideal. Already the corporations de facto set the largest part of the agendas in most countries while the most vulnerable have little voice. And men like Harper will move us steadily in that direction.

But no party in Canada is really addressing this because there is a structural imperative not to. Even the NDP has few ideas on how to change the game. Because as far as I can see there is only one way; to wit.: eliminate all private funding to political parties, period. It seems that any other step is just window dressing because anything people will just get around.

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