We're one step closer to replacing the stars on the flag with dollar signs.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that big business is entitled to spend its money to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress. Reversing a decades-old law prohibiting just such a thing, the court's majority said that limiting corporate America's ability to support candidates is a limit on free speech.
I'll wait a moment while you all weep for poor widdle corporate America.
I guess having corporations, unions and special interests pull the strings behind the scenes was getting tiresome, so the five justices decided to let them do their string pulling out in the open instead.
What's truly perplexing is the majority Thursday (minus Anthony Kennedy) is the same group that opposed letting the government take your property to allow it to be developed. (But I'm guessing that dissension was just because it was the government doing the taking. If big business itself had been confiscating land, well, I'm sure they would have gotten behind that.)
I'm struggling to understand how anyone can think this will be a good thing. The flood of political commercials alone will be unbearable. How in the world can the court think that removing limits on corporate influence will be a victory for free speech?
I'm as staunch a supporter as you'll find when it comes to free speech, but that's just what it should be free. When you start placing a dollar value on it, you diminish the private citizen's ability to join in the debate, and thus throw a monkey wrench in the old theory that more speech is better.
Think about it. A candidate is running for president. One group of corporations supports him. Another opposes him, but the first group has twice as much money. Who do you think will do a better job at getting their message out? Who do you think will stand a better chance of winning?
And just where does Joe the Plumber stand in all this? Without a national advertising budget, the average Joe has little chance of his speech having anywhere near the effect that corporate America's will. And even if some citizen group does manage to get its word out, all the special interests have to do is dip into their pockets and buy more airtime.
This is a bad, bad decision. Corporations already have a scary amount of control in this country. This ruling just ensures that they will be able to tighten their grip on our political system and broaden their influence on our everyday lives. But I guess the job-for-life justices haven't felt the effects these past couple of years of letting corporate America do whatever it wants.
Maybe if some of them had been laid off and lost their homes they'd feel a bit differently about who should be steering the ship when it comes to politics.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.