The McCutcheon decision handed down last week by the Supreme Court has generated considerable criticism. The general consensus in the liberal media seems to be that the decision will make it easier for rich people to buy elective office for preferred candidates. It’s hard to see how it could get any easier than it is now, with most elected officials already realizing their richest contributors’ fondest wishes. It’s worth recalling that the arms industry, the health insurance industry, the oil and gas industry, and the banking industry, among others, routinely receive favored treatment by government officials, regardless of party. Their lobbyists have few adversaries in Congress or the executive branch, and state governments compete for these interests’ goodwill. The absence of an aggregate limit on political contributions isn’t going to do much to change any of this. Personnel shifts among lawmakers and policy-makers haven’t yet altered the bias in favor of big money.
It’s a bit ironic that we are suddenly so upset that rich people can use money to convince us to vote for one or another candidate. We don’t seem especially concerned that rich people already use vast sums to convince us that burning fuel is harmless, that bankers should decide how much money there will be, that we can tolerate a permanent state of war, that we should work harder for less, and that we should buy what they’re selling. In the realm of toxic advertising, political advertising is almost benign, especially when you consider the quality of candidates (low) we are routinely offered by the people who buy the ads.
I don’t often agree with the chief justice, but he’s on target in his assessment that the current limit on the aggregate amount that a rich person can use to buy elections hasn’t stopped corruption. In fact, since the 1970s, when the first of the campaign finance laws was passed, we’ve had the most corrupt leadership in the history of our country. The rich improved their status and increased their numbers as never before, all at the expense of working people and all through the manipulation of public policy at every level of government.
It’s not the Constitution or John Roberts that’s at fault here. It’s the complacent, deluded, altogether stuporous masses that refuse to govern this nation responsibly. Hollering for constitutional restrictions on speech is something we can do instead of anything at all. All this clamor for an amendment to the Constitution ought to be channeled into a demand for the taxation of excessive wealth to limit the influence of money on public opinion. The Constitution gives us the power to do this, and we don’t have to gut the Bill of Rights to accomplish our purpose.