By Dave Lindorff
Flash! The Supreme Court's latest 5-4 decision overturning the over 60-year-old ban on corporations giving money to political campaigns is not the end of democracy as we know it, or the onset of fascism in America, as some of hyperventilating progressives have been claiming.
Sure it's an outrage to say, as the court majority did, that corporations have the same rights as people. But let's face it: Corporations have long dominated the American political scene. They didn't need to be free to donate in their own corporate names. They have had their political action committees to do the job, and that's worked just fine for them, as witness the current state of the two pro-corporate parties in Congress, and the string of blatantly pro-corporate presidents we've had for as far back as I can remember.
In fact, the way I see it, this latest decision is a huge improvement. Having been granted the same First Amendment rights as individuals when it comes to free speech, corporations now can honestly and openly buy elections and lobby in their own names, instead of hiding behind such deceptive PAC names as the American Solutions for Winning the Future (oil industry) or Grassroots Arizona (real estate interests).
Now perhaps American voters will be able to see more clearly just who these companies are that own our politicians. We will be able to understand much more easily how our own interests are being trampled by the money and power of corporations.
It's a terrible thing to have a supposedly democratic government that is actually owned by corporations, of course, and this certainly was not by any stretch of the imagination what the Founders had in mind when they spoke of "all men" being "born equal," or what Abe Lincoln had in mind when he spoke of a government "of the people, by the people and for the people," but that's what we've got. We might as well make that as clear as possible, and this latest court decision does that really well.
Now we can tackle the problem frontally, instead of with the Rube Goldberg approach we've had up to now with PACs and campaign finance laws that really just forced the reality of corporate influence into hiding.
We now have the opportunity to unite people on the left, middle and right who find the idea of corporate money buying votes and government officials to be repugnant--and this is not just a concern of the left--to once and for all root out this evil.
The best solution would be a national campaign for a new Constitutional Amendment--one which would specifically define the First Amendment as applying to individual human beings. And there is such a campaign! Check it out at:Move to Amend
This could also be a great teachable moment. If corporations are to have the same free speech rights as a person, shouldn't corporations also have the same responsibilities and the same punishments when they break the law? For example, if a corporation takes actions which cause workers to die, or which destroy the environment of a community and cause widespread cancers, shouldn't the people who made those criminals--the managers and the major shareholders who backed those managers--be held criminally responsible?
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-area journalist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net