…except that they are way harder to punch in the face when they do stupid s**t. The good news is that the Supreme Court apparently understands the concept of speaking via dollars. (If you are not familiar with this notion, consider that I make a statement every time I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart because I do not like its receipt-checking policy or whatever.) The bad news is that Wal-Mart has a lot of dollars. I wrote before about the controversy surrounding whether corporations should have the same rights as individuals when it comes to voicing opinions via dollars. The original post outlines the history of the issue, but I will repeat here the part that you are probably most interested in:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word – Let Freedom Ka-Ching|
Wellllll…it turns out that Stephen was pretty much on target, since the Supreme Court (SCOTUS, to us policy wonks) ruled today that the government can’t ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections, and cited the First Amendment as the basis for the decision. Now, the court itself was very divided on this issue, and a lot of people aren’t pleased with this decision. From The New York Times:
President Obama issued a statement calling on Congress to “develop a forceful response to this decision.”
“With its ruling today,” he said, “the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”
Hm. I am torn here. I don’t necessarily disagree with the second part of the statement above, but I would like to point out that, for better or for worse, that’s not really the Supreme Court’s problem. Last time I checked (which may have been during high school civics class, but go with me here), the Supreme Court’s job was to decide whether or not things were constitutional, not whether or not they sucked. One would hope that, in most cases, those two qualities are well-aligned, but there is no reason that they need be. The reasons given by the majority and minority are also interesting along this dimension:
The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace will corrupt democracy.
It seems here that the majority took the position of “it’s not constitutional” and the dissenters took the position of “but the alternative sucks.” I do think that this decision is in line with the function that the Supreme Court is supposed to have, and I do think that corporations that are affected by U.S. government policy should have a say in who makes that policy, but I can’t help thinking that Wal-Mart and its receipt-checking gestapo are going to have policymakers in their back pockets, which could lead to all sorts of raucus.
In principle, this doesn’t HAVE to be a problem. In a perfect world filled with puppies and rainbows and unicorns, company executives would put corporate dollars towards those candidates who would most benefit employees, shareholders, etc., and as such the “speaking” of the company would just be as a representative of its stakeholders, who may or may not have the inclination to contribute themselves. But, until I neet a unicorn at least, I am well aware that we don’t live in this world.
Lest you think that this issue is settled (and you probably didn’t, since Obama led you to believe otherwise above), just wait until people start pointing out that this ruling in and of itself potentially gives MORE say to corporations than to individuals, since individuals are limited in various ways in how much they can contribute to a campaign. From what I read in the NYT, all the court said is that bans on spending are unconstitutional, so it’s unclear how the rules are ultimately going to play out. My hope is that, if corporations are allowed to speak with their dollars, that shareholders wise up and start doing so as well.
I’m going to go prepare for life in the United States of Halliburton now, I’ll talk to you later.