[dropcap]L[/dropcap]et’s play a quick game called “I am a U.S. citizen.” Feel free to join in even if you’re from another country. This is a fun game that everyone around the world can play.
First of all, congratulations – you live in the United States of America, an awesome country founded on the principles of democracy. Since the creation of our country’s constitution, everyone has been guaranteed equal rights (especially after we abolished slavery a hundred years later), and everyone has been assured an equal voice in all political decisions (especially after we started allowing women to vote in 1919).
Now, let’s pretend you’d like your equal voice to be heard by American politicians and the general public. No problem. Are you the CEO of a large corporation, or are you extremely wealthy? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then get your checkbook out and prepare to be heard. If you answered no to either or both of these questions, welcome to reality. Then again, if you’re not rich and/or in a position of power, you already know how hard it is to get anybody to care about what you have to say.
Money attracts power, and vice verse. These two things alone make people very influential. However, there are a few exceptions of people throughout history who have had a profound influence over others even though they were poor and not in a position of authority. The most well known of these people is probably Jesus who spoke against the pursuit of wealth and power, which arguably led to him being killed by the rich and powerful Roman Empire. So there you go.
While the Roman Empire may no longer exist, there’s an updated version of it in America that is more than ready to impose their will. These guys don’t wear togas or Centurion garb. They wear business suits. And instead of pledging allegiance to Rome, they pledge allegiance to the almighty dollar, because it is their abundance of dollars that allows them to do whatever they want. But in this day and age, they understand that killing people like our old pal Jesus is bad for public relations. Plus, they know that all they have to do is outspend their opposition if they want their message to be the one that most people hear. Thanks to two different rulings in 2010 by the supposedly all-wise Supreme Court, there’s no limit to how much money can be spent to advocate for or against political candidates and policies. While it is still illegal for an individual to donate more than $2,500 directly to a candidate during an election, there are plenty of other ways to manipulate politics with money.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n January of 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot place limits on spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. Basically, Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court stated in his closing comments that corporations and unions should not be prevented from engaging in free speech as granted by the First Amendment. A fine point. However, corporations and unions were never in danger of being denied free speech. For some reason Justice Kennedy seems to think that allowing a corporation or union to spend as much money as they want to sway a politician or public opinion is the same as the simple, basic right of free speech. These two concepts are obviously and dramatically different. Furthermore, most of us can’t afford to pay for a political ad campaign so that our free speech can even be heard. Thanks to Justice Kennedy and the other judges who sided with him, corporations and unions now have free range to spend as much as they want promoting or slinging mud at various candidates and issues. Granted, most unions are comprised of working class individuals. One could argue that it’s a fair trade to allow elite corporations and middle class union workers to go head to head in political spending. However, most large corporations make billions of dollars in profits each year. Unions and their members don’t even come close to having that much disposable income. Clearly, that leaves us with big businesses as the victors. You can count on being bombarded with a lot of misleading propaganda that favors candidates and policies that will primarily benefit the wealthy. I guess they’re not rich enough, but then again, greed is a slippery slope. But wait, there’s more.
After one obviously bad decision, the Supreme Court decided to keep the train rolling off the tracks with their second ruling in June of 2010. They doubled down on allowing an onslaught of money to poison politics by further ruling that any person or organized group can pool their money together with other like-minded people or groups for political purposes. These pooled together groups are now commonly known as Super PACs (Political Action Committees). It was bad enough that the Supreme Court said that a corporation or wealthy person could spend an unlimited amount of their vast fortune to spread political propaganda, but then they ruled that it was okay for them to team up with other rich fat cats and really throw some money around in order to steer the public’s perspective to their side. None of this makes sense. From what I can tell, the mega rich were doing just fine before the Supreme Court allowed them to form All-Star teams.
In a frivolous effort to make things appear fair, Super PACs are not allowed any contact with candidates that they campaign for. This rule supposedly forces Super PACs to solely follow their own agenda and not that of a particular candidate. However, any member of a candidate’s campaign team can abruptly quit and then start working for a Super PAC, supplying them with whatever message the candidate would like to promote. Rick Tyler, one of Newt Gingrich’s previous aides, has already done this. Or a candidate could just make special appearances at Super PAC fundraisers like Mitt Romney. Who knows what Romney says behind closed doors to Super PAC members while he’s there. But besides all that, it’s common knowledge where every candidate stands on each issue.
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o it’s obvious to any Super PAC how to tailor their message in order to help their favored candidate get elected. Even President Obama has a Super PAC that endorses him. While he has made many statements about his dislike of Super PACs and their corruptive qualities, he has no choice but to condone the Super PAC that supports him. The same applies to any candidate who may feel that Super PACs are a threat to our democracy. If every other candidate has one, those without a Super PAC would be at a distinct disadvantage in an upcoming election. Their message would quickly be drowned out and trumped by the message of a Super PAC that has dramatically more money to spread propaganda, and thus a much greater ability to sway public opinion. There is no high road in our current political system.
Billions of dollars are already spent every year by industry lobbyists in Washington to make sure certain legislation is voted the way they want. It’s clear to anyone that our entire political system is corrupted by outside special interest groups with big bank accounts. Sure, politics everywhere has been corrupted by money since the beginning of modern civilization, but that’s no reason for us to accept this as the way things have to be. Nor does it excuse our Supreme Court for allowing the situation to get worse.
So many people in the U.S. regularly tout the Constitution and the democratic rights that it theoretically guarantees every citizen, yet they fail to mention that unless you can afford to practically bribe your way towards getting others to listen to you, your voice will not be heard. Then again, I guess the United States of America really is all about freedom. Anyone with an abundance of money is free to buy our political system. Now that’s something to cheer about as a U.S. citizen. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!