Reposted from Facebook
Money and Democracy – April 3, 2014
Yesterday the Supreme Court came to a decision on the matter of McCutcheon v. FEC. The basic gist is that single political donors are no longer capped to a certain number of donations in a political cycle. While the donation amounts are still limited, any candidate or issue can simply set up multiple proxies, organizations, and committees to recieve multiple donations from the same person, effectively circumventing the dollar limits.
So, what does this all mean? Here’s a brief explanation –
The wealthy have always had a disproportionately large say in American public policy. This isn’t news. It also isn’t democratic. The last 40 or so years have seen this country edge closer and closer to actual plutocracy. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision – which happily for the plutocrats, flew under most people’s radar – served to reinforce America’s gradual descent from representative democracy.
We do indeed have a legitimate one person – one vote system. However, those with sufficient money essentially get the equivalent of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of votes.
Organizing and mobilizing individuals – single votes – is the democratic way to enact change in a representative democracy. For too long, the relative few with economic power have been able to override the interests of the individuals. Want a project started, a road repaired, a tax enacted or cut? You can put in the work to sign petitions, organize rallies, write letters, and engage many individual votes. Or, you can write a 5, 6, 7, or even 8 digit check to the elected representatives. The check almost always wins. With money, one vote overrides potentially millions. You may have to write multiple checks to come up with that 8 digit number, but with the restriction on the number of donations removed, the potential is nearly limitless. If you have money, that is.
The American political system has long supported this, but through history, some checks on this have prevented outright plutocracy – though we have come close.
Unfortunately, things are changing the wrong way for those without money who want a voice.
When people discuss wealth and income inequality, this is one of the primary side effects of that inequality. More money concentrated in the hands of a select few. That select few uses their money to influence policies that make it harder for those in the economic basement to move above ground. To those who believe the economic policies favored by the fiscal conservatives is the best way to go… I ask merely that the evidence is looked at. In the last 40 years, income inequality has increased, and wealth mobility has decreased, all while increasingly “conservative” fiscal policies have been enacted. Pretty clear and direct cause-and-effect here. Regulation, tax rates, union policies are all far friendlier to the rich now (even under that mean old socialist Obama) than during the New Deal/Fair Deal/Great Society era of ’33-’73. Eisenhower and Nixon were less business friendly than supposed liberals Clinton and Obama.
We make do, the way we always have. American democracy lurches forward, despite the efforts of the wealthy to redirect power and wealth into their pockets. It doesn’t help, however, when the defenders of the constitution and the principles of a representative democracy make decisions that fundamentally limit that democracy. One person, one vote? Sure. For me. For (probably) you. For those with real power? Nah, they get as many votes as they need. Thanks, SCOTUS. Thank you for reinforcing a system that treats people with money as more valuable in every sense (political, social) than those without. “The people” spoken about by the founding fathers should come with an asterix – “The *rich* people.”
For a more coherent and comprehensive explanation of this mess, please check here:
…and especially here:
As always, I may be wrong, and feel free to disagree or debate, but don’t be a jerk.