Friday, July 10, 2009

Time to change the Constitution?

Our founding fathers set up a system of government that intentionally made it difficult to pass legislation. They feared the power of unfettered authority, and desired a structure that would protect individual rights, and would keep minorities safe from the tyranny of the majority. A wonderful system, and it has worked well.

It’s not working so well any more. Our government seems incapable of doing anything well, and is almost certainly incapable of doing the right thing. Part of the reason is the inherent structure. Legislation has to pass both houses of Congress, and then be signed by the President. But the biggest reason Congress is such a sinkhole of stupidity can be laid on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Actually, two reasons, neither of which was anticipated by the original authors of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has issued two rulings which together have completely upended and subverted our government. They might appear benign or innocuous, but they unleashed a sort of cancer that’s consuming our leaders.

Ruling one: that corporations have the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. Ruling two: that campaign contributions are political speech. That’s it; we’re toast.

You can see where this is going. Politicians have to get elected, then reelected, and that takes increasingly large amounts of money. Who has money to give? Rich people and corporations, mostly. Given the two rulings I mentioned, we can’t really restrict the amount of money corporations can spend to influence legislation.

NPR is following the obscene money being spent on the health care bill. Have a look. Click on the photo and gaze (in disgust, or fear, or maybe wonderment) at all the lobbyists leeched onto the hearing. Business is well represented; you and I aren’t. I know, we elect “representatives,” but they don’t give a shit about us. Our vote they care about, periodically, but us, not one whit.

We no longer have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We have a government of the people, by the elite and well connected, for the corporations. And we can’t do anything about it.


fortboise said...

Corporate "personhood" has certainly turned out to be a Pandora's Box.

Corporations as a group seem to have cherry-picked the good stuff of rights and avoided the bad stuff of responsibilities. It works out the same for the rest of us -- the bad stuff escaped, and the good stuff was left behind when the lid was snapped shut.

Since we're talking about rewrite, how about we outlaw the death penalty for humans, and enact it for corporations? (Not that it deters crime, of course...)

Sisyphus said...

Excellent post. I'd encourage you to flesh this out a little more with regard to the first amendment rights and campaign financing. (Isn't there a case pending in the SCOTUS right now that was held over for the new justice?) That seems to be the lynch pin for why health care reform failed before and why it will fail again. This transcends partisan divides and gives the stink of corruption to every sausage that comes out of congress.

alan said...

Yes, I think it's the Ricci (SP?) case. From what I've read, various comments in various media, it's poised to completely gut any ability to control campaign spending by corporations.

alan said...

Oops, nope, not Ricci, that was the New Haven firefighter case.

Anonymous said...

Could you give more information about first amendment..
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