The United States Supreme Court now sees its central task as comforting the already comfortable and afflicting those already afflicted.
If you are a large corporation or a political candidate backed by lots of private money, be assured that the court’s conservative majority will be there for you, solicitous of your needs and ready to swat away those pesky little people who dare to contest your power.
This court has created rules that will have the effect of declaring some corporations too big to be challenged through class actions, as
And remember how sympathetic conservatives are supposed to be to the states as “laboratories of democracy,” pioneering solutions to hard problems?
Tell that to the people of Arizona.
They used a referendum to establish a highly practical system of financing political campaigns that the court, in a 5-4 decision Monday, eviscerated. It was designed to reduce corruption and give a fighting chance to candidates who decide to forgo contributions from special interests.
The people acted, noted Justice Elena Kagan in a brilliantly scalding dissent, after a scandal in which “nearly 10 percent of the state’s legislators were caught accepting campaign contributions or bribes in exchange for supporting a piece of legislation.”
Under Arizona’s “clean elections” initiative, candidates who raised a modest amount in very small contributions could receive a lump sum of public money. They could raise no further private funds.
No candidate had to join the public system. But if a privately financed candidate or the interest groups supporting his or her campaign started outspending one who was publicly financed, the public system came to the rescue with additional cash so the “clean money” candidate wouldn’t be blown out of the race by lethal dollar bills.
Why was this important? Kagan was spot on: “Candidates will choose to sign up” for public funding “only if the subsidy provided enables them to run competitive races.” Such breathtaking common sense has been missing from the majority’s recent campaign finance decisions — notably its Citizens United ruling, also a 5-4 conservative ukase, allowing our poor, beleaguered corporations to expand their power in American politics.
Here’s the stunning part: For years, opponents of campaign finance reform have accused those who want to repair the system of trying to reduce the amount of political speech. But Arizona’s law, as Kagan pointed out, “subsidizes and so produces more political speech.” And then there was this shot at Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion: “Except in a world gone topsy-turvy, additional campaign speech and electoral competition is not a First Amendment injury.”
Indeed, Roberts had to argue that those terribly downtrodden candidates financed with private money had their speech “burdened,” simply because their publicly financed opponents had the means to respond.
Kagan and the dissenters stood up for free speech. Roberts’ majority defended paid speech. The dissenters want to allow candidates to talk; the majority wants to enhance money’s ability to talk.
Roberts was especially exercised over any notion of “leveling the playing field” between private-money candidates and their challengers. He even included a footnote calling attention to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission’s Web site, which once said the law was passed “to level the playing field when it comes to running for office.” Horrors!
Kagan archly noted the “majority’s distaste for ‘leveling’ ” and then dismissed its obsession, observing that Roberts failed to take seriously the Arizona law’s central purpose of containing corruption. Leveling was the means, not the end.
Nonetheless, pay heed to how this conservative court majority bristles at nearly every effort to give the less wealthy and less powerful an opportunity to prevail, whether at the ballot box or in the courtroom. Not since the Gilded Age has a Supreme Court been so determined to strengthen the hand of corporations and the wealthy. Thus the importance of the Wal-Mart and AT&T cases, the latter described by the New York Times as “a devastating blow to consumer rights.” Will the court now feel so full of its power that it takes on the executive and legislative branches over the health-care law?
In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt warned that the courts had “grown to occupy a position unknown in any other country, a position of superiority over both the legislature and the executive.” Worse, “privilege has entrenched itself in many courts just as it formerly entrenched itself in many legislative bodies and in many executive offices.”
What happens to a democracy when its highest court dedicates itself to defending privilege? That’s the unfortunate experiment on which we are now embarked.
By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, Published June 29, 2011
Once again the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has shown the nation it will always favor corporations over people even if it means conjuring new law out of thin air. Like Citizens United, the recent 5-4 ruling in AT&T’s favor gutting the power of consumers to file class-action lawsuits against giant corporations tips the scales of justice against the people and renders the enormous power of corporations even more enormous.
When I first heard about the case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion there was little doubt in my mind that the Gang of Five — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas would figure out a way to ignore Supreme Court precedent and again apply their judicial activism in service to the corporations, and by extension, to the oligarchy they apparently believe the “founders” intended.
It’s kind of funny when we see Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romeny, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich pandering to the “little guy” denouncing “elites” who are trampling on their rights only to remain mute on the fact that their beloved Republican Supreme Court never, ever rules in favor of the “little guy.”
The Republican president Ronald Reagan gave us Scalia and Kennedy; the Republican president George Herbert Walker Bush gave us Thomas; and the Republican president George W. Bush gave us Roberts and Alito. This cabal has shown over and over again where its true loyalties lie, not to “the law,” not to “the Constitution,” not to “calling balls and strikes,” but to a 21st century version of corporate feudalism. This new corporate feudalism that the High Court is determined to thrust on the nation is even more exploitative than the earlier brand of Medieval feudalism because it is absent noblesse oblige.
The serfs toiling on the corporate plantation can only continue to pay Chase and Bank of America for their underwater mortgages, ExxonMobil and Chevron for their $4 a gallon gas, and AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and the rest for the privilege of communicating in a modern society. And if the serfs seek redress the High Court will slap them down before they can get anything substantial off the ground. With Citizens United placing a stranglehold of corporate power over our state, local, and federal system of elections, we cannot turn to our political “leaders” for redress, we can’t turn to the courts, and we certainly can’t turn to trying to morally persuade sociopathic non-human entities called corporations — so where does that leave us?
In the current context of unrestrained corporate dominance it’s unconscionable that the Obama administration has not done more to blunt its disastrous effects. The Justice and Treasury Departments, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. could be doing a hell of a lot more in bringing balance to the equation of corporations versus people. The administration’s lagging performance in holding Wall Street accountable is well known, but it won’t even lift a finger to block grotesque mergers like the one between Comcast and NBC Universal, and AT&T and T Mobile. In all these mergers and acquisitions it’s always the consumers and the employees who lose, while the CEOs and a select few of shareholders and financiers make out like the bandits they are.
Nothing illustrates the corruption rampant in Washington more than the recent resignation of Federal Communications Commission member, Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican who Obama appointed to show how “bipartisan” he can be, who is now going to work as a lavishly paid shill for the very industry she was supposedly “regulating.” Ms. Baker will now make the big bucks serving Comcast/NBC Universal after she voted for the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. Sweet. And few in the Beltway see anything unsavory about it.
Our political leaders, our Supreme Court, our captains of industry and finance, are so out of touch it’s going to be a long, long time before ordinary working people see any relief. All of our institutions, political, economic, even religious, social, and cultural, all of them, are failing the people miserably in pursuit of the Almighty Buck. The cunning game of appointing young ideologues to the bench has paid off handsomely for the corporate power structure. Someone should tell those people running around in tri-cornered hats and talking about the “founders” that it might be wise to save an ounce of their collective wrath for the Republicans who have appointed five Justices who are trampling on individual freedoms in service of corporations.
By: Joseph A. Palermo, The Huffington Post, May 15, 2011