The recent (five votes to four) Supreme Court ruling granting “free speech” status to political campaign contributions will likely go down in history as one of the worst decisions to ever come out of our federal judicial system. This ruling takes us back to those unenlightened days when people of color were considered three-fifths of a person, by effectively declaring that the people with the most money are entitled to carry far more political weight than those without. Money, at least in our nation, flows to the highly successful few: to the uber-rich, the large institutions and the corporations that already wield too much power over the average American.
Are you aware that a mere one percent of Americans already own ninety-five percent of this nation’s wealth? That leaves the other ninety-nine percent of us scrapping over the five percent of wealth the uber-rich haven’t happened to get their hands on yet. Not that they’re not trying; the financial debacle of 2008 exposed the lengths to which some corporations are willing to go to capture greater profits for the power elite.
Gifting the wealthy elite – including the mega-corporations they own and operate – additional power to impact the political process is like inviting a convicted pedophile to baby sit your children. The risk far outweighs any possible short-term benefit. Just consider the kinds of mischief that can be made under this new ruling. Hard as it is now for small businesses to compete against mega-corporations, imagine how much harder it will be once those same corporations have the power to make unlimited campaign donations to the individuals who write the legislation that can grant them special favors? Once Wal-Mart can pay off a multitude of city councilmen, state legislators and local congressmen with unlimited amounts of campaign cash, how easy do you think it’ll be to block their expansion into our neighborhoods? How much clout can a small business owner’s political donation provide against such a massive tide of funding?
The beautiful thing about free speech, and the reason it’s been so cherished and protected by our democratic society since the founding of our nation is that it’s FREE. Everyone – rich or poor, black or white, immigrant or citizen, religious or non-religious, man or woman, ideologically popular or ideologically reviled – has the power to exercise it. Information is power, and to be able to communicate with each other lies at the heart of our political process.
We are a nation founded on ideas, built on ideals, and dedicated to the people. Our forefathers grounded our Declaration of Independence in a reverence for life itself – the right to life being foremost of their three most cherished ideals: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we now allow nonliving institutions to subvert the rights of the living by favoring profits above the quality of our own lives, we’d best acknowledge we’re also subverting the very values and ideals on which our nation is founded.
The profit motive is fundamentally amoral. Profits can be derived, as any good businessman knows, through moral means or through immoral practices. Therefore, elevating the power of profitability over the power of genuine free speech raises an amoral process above our value system. For the most part our nation’s policies reflect our collective moral compass. This latest decision however, made by five men in black robes, vacuums the morality out of our political process so rapidly we can almost hear the “whoosh” of our conscientious input being extracted from the system.
The solution is simple. Whenever a system tips too far in one direction an equal and opposite reaction will occur. Already grassroots organizations are gathering steam to create a constitutional amendment that explicitly denies personhood status to corporations, thus restoring a living person’s status as the thing that we most value. Please visit http://www.freespeechforpeople.org/user/register for more information if you’re interested in participating or supporting such a movement.
And remember, free speech has always been free. When money is free, perhaps it too might be reasonably considered free speech. Until then, let’s call it what it is: legalized bribery.