With all of the fear spewing from the conservative Right about hope and change destroying this country, we have seen little to back up their claim over the last year. Wall Street and the financial industries have received billions, while homeowners lose their homes and file for bankruptcy. The military-industrial complex continues to grow while being fed regular doses of cash.
Health care reform proposals went from a universal, single-payer system down to a public option to expanding Medicare for those 55 and older to nothing. However, as the debate comes to a close, health care reform may lead to people forced to buy insurance, or face a financial penalty, and being taxed if fortunate enough to have medical coverage!
Now, the playing field for working people has became more uneven with the ruling by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Overturning a precedent set over 60 years ago, the decision found that corporations, nonprofit organizations and labor unions no longer would be restricted from utilizing their own funds to create and run ad campaigns for the purpose of supporting or defeating candidates.
Basically, corporations and organizations now have the same rights as people to develop and fund election campaign strategies under the First Amendment. The limits and regulations pertaining to direct contributions made to candidates and Political Action Committees are still intact, but "any entity" that has money has the right to spend it as "they" see fit as if "they" were an individual person.
"Is this a reason to celebrate free speech and less interference from 'big government,' or is this just another victory for the 'haves' over the 'have-nots'?"
Is this a reason to celebrate free speech and less interference from "big government," or is this just another victory for the "haves" over the "have-nots"? As history has shown, when talking with our elected representatives, those who have the money have the louder voice. And soon, the haves will be shouting while workers will only be heard whispering.
Labor unions have always spoken for all workers, union or not. Labor pushes for minimum wage increases, more funding for schools and infrastructure, improvements in safety and health standards, better Workers' Compensation and Unemployment insurance and a host of other improvements to ensure families have an opportunity to reach and survive as members of the middle-class. But in the near future, the opportunity to tell "our side" of the story will soon be squashed and overshadowed by even larger sums of money being funneled in through corporate campaigns.
Even before this decision was handed down, corporate interests had outspent labor unions by a conservative ratio of 3 to 1. What is going to become of the voice of the real people? What has happened in the health care debate (ultimately a debate between members of Congress and the health care industry) will soon lead to other debates that further exclude the individual person. Corporate interests will grow even greater powers, expanding their control of the message, the media messenger and the powers in Congress. If you were sick and tired of seeing the television ads or listening to the radio ads during election time before, just wait to see what is in store for you next time.
"Even before this decision was handed down, corporate interests had outspent labor unions by a conservative ratio of 3 to 1."
Does a candidate support changes to labor law and the Employee Free Choice Act? Well, that's an important issue that the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America vehemently oppose because it will infringe upon and take away their ability to control unionization. So, if they are intent on defeating its passage, how many more millions of dollars will they spend to plead their case and give indirect financial backing to one of their candidates?
When 20 percent of the population controls 85 percent of this country's wealth, and the bottom 80 percent only control 15 percent, how can it ever be said that money is equal to one individual's right to free speech? Until a majority of our elected officials do what is right and not do what the money dictates, the system will continue to fail democracy.
As profits increase for corporations and employee wages continue to decline, the agenda for fewer workers rights, fewer environmental laws, less corporate taxation, fewer corporate regulations will appear to be the voice of the people, but the real voice of the people will be shut out.
There is no way consumer activist organizations, environmental groups, nonprofits and labor unions will ever be able to compete against the corporate propaganda machines with their multibillion dollar "free speech" bank accounts. And now, we as individuals may lose that little piece of relevance left that we still hold in deciding the fate of our country through the ballot box.
Tom Szymanski can be reached at email@example.com.