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Welcome to the Oligarchy

28 January 2010

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
-The Declaration of Independence (1776)

Each word in this declaration was chosen with extreme care.  I’d like you to note that nowhere within the first paragraph of the above declaration will you find the words “corporation,” “business,” or “company.”  The only entities mentioned are individuals and their unalienable rights.

The Supreme Court

Thanks to the Supreme Court, as of January 21st, corporations now have rights as people do.  In some cases, corporations are now entitled to rights that extend beyond your own.  Moreover, the Supreme courts ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission overturns a century of law which now allows corporations to fund political campaigns with absolutely no limit.

It doesn’t take much creativity to imagine what this will mean for the future of American politics.  At the risk of getting slightly off topic, I’d like to take a moment to illustrate the danger of this deregulation by describing a hypothetical situation that is based in fact.  I’ll start by asking a simple question:  Do you trust your credit card company?

If you have one or more credit cards, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a dramatic increase your interest rate over the last 8 months or a decrease in your spending limit.  Both of these actions were meant to increase corporate revenue before President Obama’s credit card reform legislation went into effect.  After all, the bottom line for every corporation is profit.  All other considerations are secondary.

If given the choice, your bank or credit card company would have most certainly preferred to do without Obama’s credit card reform bill.  However, thanks to the efforts of people like Senator Dodd and President Obama, credit products are being modified for the better in an attempt to make the credit business more fair to consumers.

Now, imagine the same effort within our newly founded oligarchy.  Under the supreme courts recent ruling, such an effort to make credit and lending fair for the American consumer may never have reached the floor of congress.  Remember, financial institutions are the largest lobby in Washington.  Couple that with their new found ability to spend as much money as they’d like, when they’d like, on anything they’d like and it becomes a near certainty that we can kiss this kind of consumer oriented protective legislation goodbye.  Companies need not lobby congress any longer, they need only purchase as many congressmen as their legislative desires warrant.

Here is a startling fact to consider:  Exxon Mobil profits approximately $1,254 per second.  Yes, per second.  When you do the math, you’ll find that Exxon Mobil could spend $10 million dollars on every political race in the country every election year and they wouldn’t even spend 10% of their annual earnings.  Imagine your city council, mayor, governor, senators, house representatives, and president all elected through the contributions of Exxon Mobil.  It isn’t difficult to picture the outcome of such elections; drilling in ANWR and moving as far from green energy as quickly as possible.

An Oil Rig

Perhaps you’re curious as to how we arrived at this point.  Thirty years ago the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were people, though the logic of this ruling escapes me.  They also determined that money was the equivalent of speech.  Because people have the right to free speech, corporations are people, and money is speech; corporations have the right to spend freely.  The Supreme Court would argue that this is simply leveling the playing field; that through their invaluable wisdom, both Phillip Morris and Paul Morris now have the right to spend half a billion dollars on a political campaign.

Do you want to live in a world where healthcare reform is solely in the hands of health insurance companies?  With the recent ruling, it may very well come to be.  Multi-national health insurance conglomerates have nothing to stop them from dropping a hundred million dollars on each of our congressmen with the sole intent of maintaining the status quo.

Consider this:  The Obama campaign in 2008 raised more money than any other presidential campaign in history.  Many would argue that his extraordinary ability to raise funds was what secured the oval office.  He raised $745 million over the course of his campaign, a number previously unheard of with regards to campaign fund raising.  However, under our new oligarchy, it wouldn’t even phase a company like Microsoft to contribute $745 million in one night.

My suggestion to every person living within the borders of our new oligarchy is this; When you purchase goods or services, know who you are purchasing it from.  Companies like Starbucks would surely see wages and benefits reduced nation wide.  Apple Inc would certainly jump at the opportunity to remove anti-trust laws from the books.  Wal-Mart surely wouldn’t mind bringing their child labor to America.  The only way to ensure your safety from wide-spread corporate tyranny is to make your purchases with companies you, literally, trust with your life.  In this brave new world, every dollar you spend may be used against you in a court of law.

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One Comment
  1. 28 January 2010 438

    New information: Moveon.org is seeking a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission. If you’d like to contribute a dollar or two to the welfare of your country, do so here: https://pol.moveon.org/donate/sotu_2010.html?bg_id=hpc5&id=18757-17306718-yGC56vx&t=1

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