Monday, January 25, 2010



By Jack Random

“The court’s primary function will be to strike back government regulation of private business at every turn. Anti-trust law is dead. Environmental law is rendered toothless. Regulation of essential industries -- energy, water and food -- is barely breathing. Security reigns supreme over individual liberties and the only rights that count are corporate.”

“Blame the Democrats and Move On: The Federalist Court.” Jazzman Chronicles, July 20, 2005.

“It would be impossible to understate the dangers that corporate dominance poses to democracy. Corporate democracy is an oxymoron. It cannot exist. It is an unconscionable perversion of democracy.”

“As the World Turns: America Left Behind.” Jazzman Chronicles, September 6, 2009.


As a progressive libertarian independent the events of the week were enough to send me into a tailspin of despair. No, it was not the Massachusetts senatorial race, which I found rich in irony and something of a mixed blessing. No, it was not the precipitous decline in the stock market, which served to remind us that that brokers and bankers are far more afraid of populist rage than they are of any mainstream political party.

No, it was rather the boldest assertion to date that the Supreme Court of Chief Justice John Roberts has one and only one defining characteristic: Corporate bias.

History informs us that there is perhaps no form of government more vulnerable to corporate takeover than a democracy in which there are no controls on the funding of political campaigns. Knowing this, there is no democracy in the western world that allows unlimited corporate funding. Knowing this, our Supreme Court delivered a ruling that allows just that with one caveat: corporations cannot contribute directly to political parties or candidates. It is a curious exception in that it seems to confess that the court’s reasoning is flawed. If corporations are in effect citizens, entitled to the rights of individuals, on what grounds should they be denied direct engagement?

It is however an exception that has no teeth. Corporations do not need to contribute directly to parties or candidates. They are fully capable of running their own political operations. They can operate their own focus groups. They can use their resources, even those gained from public bailouts, to tip the balance of power and control the policies of government.

We’ve grown accustomed to hyperbole from pundits and politicians but this time it is real. Democracy can be compromised only so far before it ceases to be democracy. In this case the alternative our Supreme Court has thrust us toward is corporate fascism not unlike Mussolini’s Italy, a government that found nothing objectionable in Hitler’s Third Reich. It was only business.

In the bold new world the court has laid out for us the electoral process will become a mere formality as it is in Russia or Iran. It will become a ritual to commemorate the democracy we once treasured. In this new world neither the people, the mom and pop corporations nor the unions will hold any sway, though this ruling applies to them as well, for they cannot compete with the power of the almighty dollar that corporate monoliths bring to bear.

Leaders of the Republican Party have embraced this decision and never fail to include the unions in their analysis. Yet the labor unions are a red herring. After half a century of decline, there is no union in the land that can compete with any major corporation. By this ruling union influence is rendered negligible and corporate power reigns supreme.

Among the many questions that remain unanswered are the international implications. The modern corporation is an international leviathan with tentacles extending across borders in every direction. It has no loyalties, no patriotism, no ideology, no principles and no virtue. It is governed by the profit margin, plain and simple. If selling out the workers of America (by exporting jobs and banishing the rights of labor) will boost the profit margin, it is not a decision that will be contested.

The corporate behemoths may allow Barack Obama to continue as president, they may allow the major parties to exist, but with this ruling the nation just got a charter for a new board of directors that will replace all branches of government as the ultimate arbiter of decisions. If any member of congress, Senator or President violates the dictums of the corporate masters, they will be targeted for extinction. In that sense the parties themselves will become irrelevant. All parties will become agents of corporate interest.

For as long as this decision is allowed to stand we are no longer a democracy.

It must not be allowed to stand and yet overturning a Supreme Court decision is a daunting task. Among the courses of action suggested thus far, none shows any real promise of success. Amending the constitution requires two thirds of congress and three quarters of the states. Removing the majority members of the court for treason, however justified, would require an overwhelming push by congress. As long as Republicans remain convinced that corporate dominance is to their advantage it cannot happen.

Perhaps Congressman Barney Frank, who noted that corporations are creations of law, offered the most interesting approach. Corporations are granted corporate status by the government and the government retains the right to enforce standards and regulations. It is therefore possible that congress can control the power of corporations through corporate law rather than campaign finance law.

There are at least two major obstacles to this approach. First, congress has not been able to pass re-regulation of the financial institutions even after the lack of regulation played a primary role in a near catastrophic collapse. How are we to believe that congress will act in this case even as the minority party throws up a roadblock of united opposition?

The dismal truth is congress is paralyzed. While some may give lip service to the necessity of systemic change, there is no real movement toward striking down the filibuster rule in the United States Senate. As long as the filibuster remains there can be no real change.

Even if we could get beyond systemic paralysis, any effective legislative attempt to undo what the Supreme Court has done would surely be struck down by the same court.

Those of us who believe in democracy must continue to fight but it seems to me we must also recognize reality. In all likelihood we are stuck with this decision until the balance of the court is altered. The way things are going it could be decades and by that time the nature of congress and the White House could be so altered that change may be impossible.

Once lost, the road back to democracy is paved with hardship.

That is the problem with Supreme Court decisions. They have the power to alter the very heart and soul of a nation.

So welcome to the corporate world: We are up against the wall, rifles pointed at our chests, and our only remaining choice is whether to be blindfolded or to confront our destiny with open eyes.



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