Monday, January 25, 2010

About Replican and Democrat responses to the Supremes' overturning free speech limitations

1. Republican partisans equate Exxon Corporation with "citizens...banding together and putting up a message consistent with their beliefs," then go on to claim that the unions will be the primary beneficiaries of the Supremes overturning a century of precedents on political spending.

2. Democrats downplay union influence on elections and focus on the perfidy of big business. Some even propose impeaching Justice Roberts on the basis of him perjuring himself during his nomination hearings.

Viewing all this from the middle, I get the general impression that both sides have valid complaints about the other side--while often showing total blindness to the missteps and malfeasance of their own side.

Look at healthcare reform. Regardless of whether you love or hate the bills in Congress, public opinion has been molded by the health insurance companies "banding together" to spend 1.4 million dollars a day on advertising, lobbying, whisper campaigns and suchlike--most of which has been debunked by and, both with impeccable nonpartisan credentials.

There have been efforts to counteract all this, but they've been buried in an avalanche of money, same as the last time anyone tried to reform our healthcare system.

All this supports the Democrats' complaints about the GOP's Golden Rule: the ones with the gold make the rules.

But the Republicans have a point about the unions, though unions in general are a shadow of what they were a few decades ago. The exception is the public employee unions. Government employees now make, on average, 40% more than comparable private sector employees--and they have lifetime security, with fat pensions, healthcare benefits, and near-immunity to being fired.

On the local level, cities large and small are facing huge deficits generated largely by that compensation advantage, with contracts guaranteeing lifelong pensions that are going to bankrupt more and more cities.

And heaven help the city councilman who objects. Those unions will campaign vigorously against anyone who gainsays them, manning phonebanks, walking precincts, mailing one slick attack ad after another against their foes and for city council candidates who kiss union rings.

And don't forget the Republican unions--prison guards and other law enforcement groups. They're not only gaming state governments, they've also turned prisons into warehouses with revolving doors where rehabilitation is nonexistent and America has become the world's leader in locking up the highest percentage of its citizens behind bars. Yay us.

Partisans left and right favor anything they think makes their side's megaphone bigger and clamps the other sides' megaphone shut.

Centrists like me demand fairness, transparency, and sophisticated legislation to try to curb the corrupting effect of both unions and corporations burying opposing voices.

I know I'm exactly as free to take out a Superbowl ad as Bill Gates or Jim's Tool and Die or the SEIU or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Only I can't, and Jim can't, and the others can.

If you think that's a level playing field you're nuts.

All the Constitution says is that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." It doesn't say whose speech. Suppose the government of China decided to spend $100 million to support a Senate campaign. Suppose I wanted to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater? Suppose I wanted to visit your church during services and read loudly from a pornographic novel throughout the service? Suppose I said you had embezzled from your company, or threatened to kill you?

None of those things were envisioned by the Founding Fathers as falling under the provisions of the First Amendment. Nor did they think commercial entities were people. After all, if a corporation's truck runs over someone I can't arrest every employee of that corporation for manslaughter. Nor can a corporation marry my sister. Groups of people aren't individual people--and commercial entities are most especially not people.

Now if Democrats and Republicans would agree that no organization with lots of money should have unlimited political freedom--neither unions nor corporations--that would be a start.

How about it?

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