Opinion

Wealthy elites assault democratic political process

The PHOENIX/Sydney South

It’s becoming more and more clear that Republican elites and corporate interests will not stop until every trace of democracy has been obliterated and systematically dissolved from the political processes of the United States. To put it bluntly, Big Money is strengthening its vice grip on the necks of our political representatives, and it seems as though very little is standing in its way.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which made it legal for corporations, associations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns through independent expenditures, the political landscape was forever tilted in the favor of the bourgeois. Wealthy corporations, or, more importantly, the CEOs who run the corporations, can now spend to their hearts’ content on TV ads, radio broadcasts and various other communications venues to boost public opinion of their favored political representatives, or, conversely, bash those who they didn’t see fit for the job.

The PHOENIX/Sydney South
The PHOENIX/Sydney South

Citizens United also declared that corporations are people and that money equals free speech, so as it goes, corporations must be entitled to the same First Amendment rights as any average American. To that I propose the question: How the hell can I, an individual struggling to pay for toilet paper, claim to have “Freedom of Speech” when there are billion-dollar corporations and interest groups flooding the media with their political propaganda? The fundamental notion of freedom of speech implies a level playing field in which all actors have equal opportunity to cultivate the political environment, but by allowing the super rich to funnel their offshore bank accounts into political campaigns, what results is a political system that favors the ultra-rich, and further marginalizes the voice and representation of middle and lower classes, especially that of minorities.

And as if this assault on democracy didn’t already place enough power in the hands of the moneyed elite, the Supreme Court recently heard another case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which threatens to strike down the aggregate contribution limits restricting the total amount of money an individual can give a candidate and political committees during a two-year election cycle. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, a “self-made” CEO of Coalmont Electrical Development and treasurer of the Conservative Action Fund Super PAC, hopes to dissolve the total limits on individual contributions to political candidates and committees. This way, he can donate up to $2,600 to as many candidates as he sees fit and surpass the original $123,200 aggregate limit currently imposed by federal campaign laws. The court has yet to offer a decision and it will most likely be a while before they do on such a high profile case.

I’ve struggled for hours trying to come up with an effective analogy to portray the grotesque nature of this movement to abolish campaign restrictions, but I’ve realized that it’s a pretty straightforward paradigm: We are moving toward a society and political environment in which those with more money dictate the rules, laws and norms of our government and, to a greater extent, society. “Equality and Justice for all”? How about “Equality and Justice for those of us wealthy enough to own a yacht and wipe our asses with velvet.”

This failure of the government, namely the Supreme Court, in upholding democratic values within the political processes of our country is no exaggeration when one considers the insane wealth disparity among U.S. citizens. Keeping that in mind, if money is the same as speech, according to the Constitution, does cutting the limits to campaign financing really help make this country more “free”? For the rich to sway government representatives to do their bidding, perhaps. But for those of us who aren’t sipping Mai Tais for breakfast every morning and don’t have a couple extra thousand bucks lying around to toss at a political representative, the answer is a resounding no.

Every American that isn’t a billionaire or trillionaire is being subjected to the same loss of political voice and opportunity to participate in government — left, center and right.

But all is not lost…yet. While the power of the people is being continually subverted by the influence of concentrated wealth in the hands of a select few, the revolution starts with being informed and taking that information to advocate for change.

Timmy Rose is the assistant editor-in-chief. You can contact him at trose@luc.edu

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