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August 22, 2014

It appears that a total end of campaign finance law is a step too far for the court for the moment, a court apparently (and finally) feeling the heat of plummeting public opinion. Perhaps the court has reread that portion of Justice Stevens’s dissent in Citizens United which reads as follows: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.” He was and is right. I feel the same respect for this court that I would have felt as an abolitionist lawyer the day after the court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857, which helped start the Civil War four years later.
Let’s leave the lawyer talk and talk plainly. The plutocracy, powerfully aided and abetted anew in its plans and purposes by Citizens United, works like this in the real world: Big Oil, Big Pharma, Wall Street, Big Agriculture and the military-industrial complex, all major industries with a parasitic relationship to government, have long been more than friendly with and financially dependent upon elected officials to keep the trough running, and anybody at this late date who thinks a quid pro quo is not involved has no synapses working. It really is not rocket science; on the contrary, it is disarmingly simple. Corporations spend millions in electing and lobbying politicians and then collect hundreds of billions in sweetheart contracts, tax breaks, deregulation, bailouts, inside deals and general corporate welfare. That’s it; game over. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Trouble is – you and I are paying for all of these exchanges because what they get out of paying we pay – or are liable to pay as an increase in our long term debt. Query – Why are the poor and middle class funding plutocracy? Why are the rest of us coerced as a matter of public policy to further impoverish ourselves while further enriching the rich? I will give you three guesses, and hint #1 for your first guess is Citizens United. (Also consider deregulation, tax breaks, corporate welfare generally – the list is long.)
So the Roberts 5-4 court, by its gross distortion of the First Amendment in giving the plutocracy the additional legal cover to make an already bad situation worse, turns out to be not a guardian of democratic discussion; it turns out to be rather an institution which has provided an additional tool for the superrich and the corporate culture to further their reach beyond the rest of us in broad daylight, and even has the arrogant audacity to leave us the bill while their friends in the plutocracy walk away from our (legally) robbed bank, unindicted, unarrested, and even lionized for their “achievements!”
Thomas Jefferson forewarned us of this situation. He feared the rise of a “single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions and moneyed incorporations,” which he foresaw as “riding and ruling over the plundered ploughmen and beggared yeomanry.” He knew whereof he spoke. We are both plundered and beggared, and by the same institutions he identified some two hundred years ago.
On behalf of the vast majority of Americans both plundered and beggared (or who have been or are about to be), I urge all readers of this series to repeal Citizens United the only way we the people can – by constitutional amendment – because, in addition to those predictions come true by President Jefferson, there is even a greater loss on the horizon, the loss of our most precious asset – our democracy, which I as I often write is one of the last things left worth dying for.
We can withstand a depression or a war, but we cannot withstand social incohesion that comes with our loss of democracy, without which there is no reason to even have a country. With no significant rights available, no future of our own choosing and no ideals to espouse in a 1984-like corporate culture, we are headed initially into Third World status, to be then followed by failed state status (See Greece, Rome and others who fell from within).
I am not going for a melodramatic “Awaken, ye citizens!” flourish to end this essay, but I want to make it clear that overturning Citizens United is important enough for citizens to take off work and visit their politicians, whatever their politicians’ political stripe, and tell them bluntly that unless they do something to stop this developing political nightmare and threat to democracy (via constitutional amendment and limiting legislation while awaiting the time for ratification of the amendment), you and anybody you can influence will not vote for them in favor of candidates who will do something about it as a first priority. Period! No ifs, ands or buts. Get with it or else – now! GERALD E

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