Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Supreme Court Ruling on Corporate Free Speech is A Win for Incumbent Politicians and Incumbent Corporations

Established businesses use any trick they can muster to stifle competition.

This has been going on as long as business has been transacted and is deleterious to the greater economy. Big business free market advocates are remarkably anti-free market in their actual behavior with negative consequences for innovation and growth in the societies in which they operate.

I don't really care much about the partisan effects of the Supremes 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The important effect will be in how big business promotes rules and regulations that hamstring their up-and-coming competitors.

On last Friday's PBS NewsHour David Brooks touched on this point:

...JIM LEHRER: Meanwhile, also this week, the United States Supreme Court handed down this decision on campaign finance. Some people say it's a huge catastrophe. Some people say it's a blessing, a freedom of speech issue, a First Amendment issue.

A tragedy? A victory? How do you see it?

MARK SHIELDS: It is the single biggest decision the Supreme Court, politically, in my lifetime. Everybody I talk to who is involved in campaigns, who has raised money politically said -- is terrified by it, in the sense...

JIM LEHRER: Terrified?

MARK SHIELDS: ... its implications.

American corporations, by IRS' judgment in 2005, are worth $23 trillion dollars. Barack Obama raised $800 million. Now, if we are -- say I'm Goldman Sachs, and David is sponsoring legislation to get back my bonuses. And David's got a safe district. I don't have to go after David.

All I have to do is take somebody who is sponsoring, sponsoring David's legislation, supporting David's legislation, and I go in and spend $3 million and beat him. I have hanged that person. My lobbyist says, we're going to stop this one way or the other. We will spend whatever we have. I don't want to hurt you, David, but, I'm sorry, Shields just had to sacrifice his seat.

That is -- the implications of this are absolutely unfathomable and they are terrifying.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it is a bad decision. I do -- I think it will have a poisonous effect on political atmosphere, but for different reasons than most people that I have read and heard from.

First, I'm not convinced it will have a -- it will totally change the landscape, because I'm not convinced a lot of corporations are going to want to have a political profile.

JIM LEHRER: Why not?

DAVID BROOKS: Because you are a corporation. You want to sell everybody.


DAVID BROOKS: And, so, why stick your neck out?

But I do think it will have this effect. What do corporations, when they go to Washington, what do they want? One, they want subsidies from Washington. Two, they want to crush small businesses who are hoping to compete with them by erecting regulatory hurdles.

So, I think they will use that money to try to essentially hurt small business, who don't have lobbyists, don't have money to spend. And I think both of those are very negative effects on the country.

I do not necessarily think it is great for the Republican Party and terrible for the Democratic Party, because when you look at who is willing to subsidize corporations and erect regulatory barriers, both parties actually do that. So, I think will have bad effects, but not necessarily partisan effects.

JIM LEHRER: When President Obama said yesterday, we're going to do -- I'm going to talk to Congress and we are going to have a forceful response, what can he do? What can anybody do about this, whether they like it or not?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, the way that the opinion, the decision was written, it's going to be awfully tough. I mean, they have made it constitutional...

JIM LEHRER: The Supreme Court of the United States has made a decision.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that, David, that there's not too many options?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I mean, people like Chuck Schumer are working on it, but it's -- from what I have read -- and I don't understand it completely -- they are nibbling on the edges, rather than going at the core.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. No, it is -- I'm serious -- this is big-time. It really is. And the -- just the presence of that kind of money, why would anybody volunteer in a campaign?

JIM LEHRER: Why do you assume -- this is a question -- David is going to ask you this question, but I'm going to ask it before he does.


JIM LEHRER: Why do you assume that people will use it in evil ways, the money?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I don't find corporations, historically, in this country to have been altruistic agents.


DAVID BROOKS: I think they are altruistic when they make great products. I happen to like my iPod and all that kind of stuff.

MARK SHIELDS: I am talking about public policy.

DAVID BROOKS: No, I agree.

MARK SHIELDS: Public policy.

DAVID BROOKS: They try to stifle competition.


DAVID BROOKS: That is what businessmen do.

MARK SHIELDS: And they -- and they are not -- and they don't take a wide perspective. They don't take -- I didn't see them -- did you see the corporations really pushing for the civil rights acts? I mean, did you see them pushing for Americans With Disabilities Act? I missed that, I guess.

JIM LEHRER: Mark, David, it has really been nice chatting with you.

I'll be coming back to this, I wanted to bookmark the link.