Money drowns out many voices in political arena
Jennifer Abplanalp, Opinions Editor
June 28, 2011
Filed under Opinions
The United States’ practice of equating money to free speech has mutated Wisconsin, now infamously, into Fitzwalkerstan. It has plunged the state into a delicate dance between democracy and plutocracy and has given a bullhorn to only those who can afford it, leaving the financially-limited without a voice.
Fitzwalkerstan’s plutocratic and uncompassionately evil trinity, Gov. Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald have doggedly followed the new, wealthy-American-funded, ultraconservative Republican Party’s agenda. An agenda that systematically attacks programs utilized predominantly by the nation’s poor and huddled masses, lowers the burden on those who have money, and transfers that burden to those that don’t.
When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision in January of 2010, it overturned laws and precedent going back decades making it easier for corporations to finance political campaigns.
The court stuck down a provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly referred to as the McCain-Feingold Act, which prohibited the general funds of for-profit and non-profit corporations and Unions from being used for “issue advocacy” or “independent expenditures.” Advertisements not run for specific candidates but run on behalf of candidates. Corporations were made human.
Recently, referenda in Madison and Dane County passed with nothing short of a mandate. While these referenda have little actual power, they carry the weight of thousands of people who disagree with the concept that corporations should have the same rights as flesh and blood humans.
Money should not equal free speech.
A common counter to this argument is that special interest groups are acting on the desires of the people they represent. Members of the National Rifle Association give money to the organization because they support the platform of that organization. The NRA in turn researches and endorses those candidates that support the NRA’s platform on behalf of the organization’s membership.
However, who speaks for those who have no money to spend on membership dues or donations to issues advocacy groups? Who represents the people living paycheck to paycheck, the downtrodden, and those who historically have been mashed by the boot heel of society and have become chronically disinterested and have resigned themselves to their lot in life? Who stands up for their well-being and supports the issues important to them?
Paul Ryan’s recent U.S. budget proposal demonstrates how the corporate Right attempts to balance the debt of this nation squarely on the backs and in the checkbooks of those in this country who can least afford it. It is evident in the programs being dealt heavy, if not lethal blows: Medicare and Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (also known as food stamps), and Pell Grants for low-income college students, among other things.
All while extending tax cuts for the rich.
The Citizens United ruling merely perpetuates today’s fiscal divide between the poor and the rich.
Those who have money spend it on the candidates who, in return for their monetary devotion, pass legislation preserving or improving their rosy fiscal futures and the issues they champion. Wisconsin’s recent Supreme Court race is a prime example of such spending. Special interest groups donated over $3 million on campaign advertising, with conservative groups supporting conservative Judge David Prosser out-spending liberal groups backing Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg by nearly a two to one margin.
Money will, unfortunately, always equal power, but a government “of the people, by the people” should not be governed by the corporations. Recently, the Fair Elections Now Act was re-introduced in the Senate. This bill attempts to make obtaining elected federal offices once again possible to those of more limited means by allowing them to choose to run without large contributions or donations from lobbyists.
As humans and especially as humans in a powerful and rich, first-world country, it is our social responsibility and our obligation to provide a social support structure for those less fortunate among us.
So much in this world, and our fortunes in it, is based on luck. Luck for the family we are born into, whether that family is rich already, or simply rich in the moral support necessary for developing productive individuals. Luck for being born smart, with a talent for sports, or art, or writing, or sheer force of personality. Luck for meeting the right people, being in the right place at the right time, or for having access to the breadth of knowledge and experiences this world has to offer.
Regardless of how hard they work, not everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Who will represent them? Where is their Robin Hood?