Feb 092010
 

Wall Street has weighed in with powerful evidence that the United States Supreme Court was right when it concluded a few weeks ago that corporations are the same as human beings. Turns out, Wall Street has feelings, and they are hurt.

Wall Street is so “irked” at President Obama and the Democratic Party that it is rebuffing their requests for political money, according to the New York Times. “[I]t doesn’t feel good,” when Obama talks about Wall Street greed, complained a Morgan Stanley executive. “The expectation in Washington is that ‘We can kick you around, and you are still going to give us money,’” whined a major Wall Street executive. He warned: “‘We are not going to play that game anymore.’”

That’s just a bluff, of course, because Wall Street has been playing the Washington money game for decades – in fact, as we documented in our two hundred page report (PDF) last year, the nation’s economy is in the toilet now because between 1998 and 2008, Wall Street spent $5 billion on Washington, and Washington, without even a hint of partisanship, rolled over – deregulating the industry and encouraging the orgy of speculation that led to the crash.

The Supreme Court’s decision last month in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case guarantees that big business will always be happy by solidifying corporate control over the nation’s legislative process. Discarding one hundred years of previous decisions, the court held that, under the First Amendment, when corporations spend money in the political process, it’s the same as when people make speeches.

This is a travesty. The practical effect of the decision is to accord huge multinational corporations the power to nullify the First Amendment rights of individual Americans. While you and I are “free” to drag a soapbox on to a street corner and  proclaim to our heart’s content, credit card companies, hedge funds, insurance companies are now “free” to unleash tens of millions of dollars from their corporate treasuries in an attempt to fix the outcome of any political debate in their favor. Sometimes that will backfire, as it did when insurance companies spent $80 million trying to persuade voters to defeat Proposition 103, the insurance reform I wrote back in 1988.  Californians figured out who was on the their side, and who wasn’t. But in the vast majority of lower profile issues, in which elected officials are called upon to choose between the policy choice favored by a huge money donor and the one that’s better for constituents, the money talks.

That’s why, despite the near-collapse of our financial system at the hands of the Money Industry, their lobbyists have still been able to stymie just about every congressional proposal to prevent another crash: reform of derivatives and the student loan system, creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and the recent proposal by the White House to ban banks from speculation.

The tyranny of the British monarchy led to the American Revolution. The Supreme Court’s decision substitutes a corporatocracy for the oppression of kings. So far, the tea parties that seem to be erupting spontaneously around the nation are directing their fire at the bailouts and other encroachments of government. They also need to keep an eye on the corporations that are arguably more powerful than the government already, or will soon be so thanks to the Supreme Court.

About Harvey Rosenfield

Harvey Rosenfield has been fighting to protect consumers and taxpayers against rip-offs and abuse for thirty years. He’s the author of Proposition 103, the landmark insurance reform initiative, which has saved Californians more than $63 billion in insurance premiums.

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