Thursday, January 21, 2010

The United States Died Today

The ramifications of yesterday's Citizen's United decision are difficult to comprehend. In one fell swoop, in a decision which relied on no precedent or legal rule, the Supreme Court of Justice Roberts destroyed any and all limits on corporate financing of campaigns. No, it's too big. Let's walk back a little and take a brief look at how we got here.

In a decision in the nineteenth century, a no less misguided Supreme Court decided that corporations were, in certain important respects, persons and thus entitled to some of the protections laid out in the United States Constitution. Too much ancient history for you? OK, perhaps you'd feel better if we only went back about thirty years. It was about thirty years ago that the public began to be fed an endless diet of anti-union propoganda. Not coincidently, that coincided with the rise in Washington of a class of politicians who believed Ayn Rand was right; that corporations should be entirely unregulated. My opinions on Rand are fairly irrelevent here (although I believe she may be the most evil woman in history) but what that led to was a systematic dismantling of the limits on corporate activities that had been put in place after the Great Depression (also caused by corporations). Those politicians, in union with a media almost completely controlled by the right-wing, preached that the corporation was your friend and the public, so forgetful, so endlessly trusting, believed them.

Perhaps you would say that, since today's decision was made by judges, not politicians, that political movement is irrelevent. Sadly, that's untrue. Judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Congress. Because of that, the only judges considered for selection are those whose worldview matches that of their selector. President Reagan would not have even considered a judge who was pro-choice, for example. Confirmation is a little more complex but, given the Republican minority's effective current veto power (via their unprecedented lockstep filibuster on absolutely everything and no, wingers, the Democrats were nowhere near this bad to Bush) can be worked around. Bush just went with recess appointments (and it's unclear whether that was even meant to apply to judicial nominations). The lifetime appointments given the Supreme Court justices were originally meant to insulate judges from political pressures. In reality, they've done exactly the opposite and simply given a lifetime term to any justice's political biases.

Ah, now we can get to the ramifications of the decision. Keith Olbermann did a good job of scratching the surface in his special comment yesterday but, given the time limits of his medium, he could go only so far. Let's start with these: A lowering and eventual abolition of corporate taxes and, shortly thereafter, of taxes on the rich who run those corporations. How about the abolition of minimum wage laws? From now on, your salary will be whatever the corporation decides to pay you. Think you can go to another corporation and get paid better? Good luck. With corporations in control of Congress, expect ever more incentives to move jobs overseas. You're going to be competing for jobs with ever more people and if you won't take that job for fifty cents an hour, there's someone who will. Oh yeah, your taxes are going to go up as well. With the lowering and elimination of corporat tax and taxes on the wealthy, the money has to come from somewhere and it's going to come from you.

Oh, you think the politicians wouldn't go that far? Sorry, you will now choose your politicians from a pool of candidates funded (and therefore, vetted and approved) by the corporations. The corporations now control whether your politicians get elected and that means that politicians will do whatever the corporation demands. From now on, you don't have a senator from California, you have a senator from Aetna or Wellpoint or... Well, pick a corporation.

The dream of the corporations is and always has been to have a class of people rich enough to buy their crap and a much larger class poor enough and desperate enough to work for pennies to make their crap. So you can kiss any form of healthcare reform goodbye. If you get sick, tough luck, you're fired and out to starve in the gutter. Any and all forms of employee protection will go. You will now be employed for as long as the corporation wants you, at whatever wages they want to pay. Forget workplace safety laws, forget employer funded healthcare. Forget the enviroment too. The corporate sector has always resisted enviromental protections and now, they're in a position to do something about it. Forget same-sex marriage, some red meat thrown to the evangelicals while the corporations take over. Reproductive choice will go the same way and, since the corporation always wants to lower wages, ever more people competing for ever fewer jobs is always in their interests. Forget banking reform too, there are few corporations more powerful. Credit card reform is the same story. Oh, and forget consumer protections as well. So your drugs may or may not work anymore. Expect more wars, expect a draft or "national service" because the corporations that manufacture bullets and bombs and all that fancy equipment are still corporations, after all.

Think I'm being too alarmist? Perhaps. But look up the position of the average person during the Great Depression, or the Dark Ages or any age where those with the gold ruled openly. Your wages have already stagnated for years. Now, with nothing to stop them, they're going to start falling. Expect the few remaining rules on media ownership to be swept aside as well. The corporations need to control those to control you, to keep you distracted.

So who can you turn to to save you? Sorry, there's not much better news here. A Supreme Court decision, through the doctrine of stare decisis, establishes enforceable law for all courts within US jurisdiction. Through the principle of judicial review, any law passed by Congress will have to be compatible with this decision or it will simply be overturned, either by the Supreme Court or by a lower court with no choice but to follow this precedent. You could try for a Constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court can't overrule that but the chances of getting a Constitutional amendment through Congress with the current Republican veto are nil and if you think a lter Republican Congress will do so, you're dreaming. The Republican party has become the political arm of the business lobby and, through the right's control of the media, has managed to convince much of the populace that that's a good thing.

Enjoy your remaining time to complain about this on the internet as well. Because Net Neutrality will shortly become a thing of the past. And if you think "the people" are going to rise up and institute a revolution, forget it. History shows us that revolutions only happen when people's basic needs are threatened or removed and even then, it's only fifty-fifty. Bread and circuses. If the bellies of "the people" are full and they have, say, American Idol to distract them, they may grumble but, chances are, they won't do anything about it. They'll go to the polls every few years and cast their vote for the corporate-approved shill who sounds slightly better than the other corporate-approved shill. The people of Germany didn't rebel against Hitler, nor did the people of Rome rebel against Nero. Until the food stops coming, there will be no revolution and even if there was, who do you think makes your guns and bullets? I can make ammo, as can a lot of firearms hobbyists but the gun you need to fire them comes from those same corporations and, incidently, the chances are fairly good that you'd be too busy fending off the poor bastards now starving in the streets to take up arms against the corporations.

Amid all the accusations of socialism and communism the right has been throwing around lately, it seems that fascism has snuck in by the back door (shh, don't tell the wingers, they think fascism was a left-wing ideaology). Mussolini, the original fascist leader, once said that fascism should more properly be called corporatism as it represented the union of state and corporate power. "The people" or, as I like to call them, "the mob" may not know this because their education has been woefully limited and they have been lied to their whole lives but corporate control of the political sphere is the very definition of fascism. There might not be tanks in the streets (as people seem to believe fascism requires) but it's fascism all the same. You now live in a fascist country.

Let me put this in simple terms so that it cannot be misunderstood: The American experiment is over, it failed. Government of, by and for the people is done. Legislators are now for sale to the highest bidder. Government is now (as Olbermann brilliantly said) of the people, by the corporation, for the corporation. If you want to know what the future looks like, read some William Gibson or the rulebook for the roleplaying game Shadowrun (although, sadly, you won't get the magic). You have, generously, five years to destroy this monstrous decision, to save your country and the dream of America. If this decision is not overturned, cut down or otherwise circumvented, your entire way of life is over.

Get to work.

"Saint Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go / I owe my soul to the company store" ~ Johnny Cash

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