Saturday, January 23, 2010

Health Care; Corporate Speech Case

I'm on deadline trying to finish a book, but just a few thoughts about the Massachusetts election and the Supreme Court corporate speech case:

-The Congressional Democrats' incompetence. After last year's election the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, WITH a filibuster-proof 60% majority in the Senate; and yet, they were unable to get their s**t together enough to pass a healthcare bill. And now that they've lost their 60%, they're folding up like a cheap tent - failing to recognize they were elected to make meaningful change. In the face of the criticism from obstructionist Republicans, they cave. If Democrats couldn't get it done under these conditions, they'll never get it done - and they'll deserve to be swept out of office in the next elections.

On this topic see also Paul Krugman in the Times in "Do the Right Thing":

"A message to House Democrats: This is your moment of truth. You can do the right thing and pass the Senate health care bill. Or you can look for an easy way out, make excuses and fail the test of history.... Ladies and gentlemen, the nation is waiting. Stop whining, and do what needs to be done."

-Corporate Speech Case: Thursday's Citizens United opinion by the Supreme Court entirely distorts the First Amendment by extending broad free speech principles to corporations. NOTHING in the Constitution extends constitutional rights to corporations. Over 100 years ago the Court (erroneously) extended the definition of the word "person" in the 5th and 14th amendment Due Process clauses to apply to corporations; and, ever since, we've had many anomalous court decisions as a result. The Citizens United case is the logical endpoint of that doctrine - and now corporations, with their disproportionate money-making capabilities, will be able to spend without limit in political campaigns.

Think about it - we all know how powerful any message sent through the broadcast media can be. Ordinary individuals simply do not have the resources to compete in this forum, so the result of corporations (which naturally favor - surprise! - conservative Republican viewpoints) having no limits on campaign spending will be to create an unlevel, skewed playing field.

It's disingenuous for the Court to say that meaningful limits on speech violate the First Amendment. Even assuming the ludicrous that a corporation is a “person” in the fullest constitutional sense, all of any person’s constitutional rights are subject to reasonable limits so long as the limits are narrowly tailored and serve a compelling governmental purpose – a cardinal principle the Court chooses to ignore in Citizens United.