By Peter Mathews
A new CNN/ORC poll indicates that 59% of adult Americans believe that the American Dream is impossible for most to achieve, an increase from 54% in 2006. Also, 63% feel that most American children will be worse off than their parents. Among older Americans, 70% feel this. I have to agree, especially if California and the U.S. continue on the current path. Here’s some historical perspective:
The 1886 Southern Pacific Railroad v. Santa Clara County U.S. Supreme Court decision stated that the corporation is a natural person protected by the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court stated that money is equivalent to speech. These two seminal decisions gave the modern day American/multinational corporation a preponderance of power over the American people and small businesses. These decisions have led to the weakening of American democracy and the American middle class. The court was wrong in both cases: corporations, unlike human persons, do not breathe, eat, sleep, have emotions, a conscience, or any other human attributes; also, money is not speech. It is a megaphone that can amplify speech for the well-funded candidate, while drowning out the speech of the lesser funded candidate.
Building on these two decisions, and others, the Supreme Court, in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, gave corporations, labor unions, and other organizations the ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, including their own, to “independently” support or oppose candidates and issues. Even before this decision, American politicians were raising hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy special interests to pay for their expensive campaigns. Once in office, they voted primarily in the interests of their wealthy donors. These donors are overwhelmingly millionaires, billionaires, and big businesses, not small businesses or average Americans. The Citizens United decision allowed big corporations, labor unions, and some non-profits, to spend even more money supporting or opposing candidates, than the candidates themselves. This “Dollar Democracy”, as I call it in my new book, has bought liberty and justice for some, mostly the top 1%, and a deteriorating American Dream for average Americans and small businesses.
Because most members of Congress and our State Legislatures have been bought and controlled by their wealthy donors, they have voted for: corporate tax loopholes, corporate welfare, outsourcing of well-paying middle-class jobs, and unfair advantages for big businesses against small businesses, although small businesses hire 70% of American workers. They’ve also voted for cuts to education and for environmental deregulation, endangering our children’s futures and our health.
A comprehensive solution to this dire condition is the We the People (28th) Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, spearheaded by the Move to Amend Coalition made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals and hundreds of member organizations across the United States. This powerful amendment would remove “corporate personhood” and the concept that “money is speech.” This would replace our present day “Dollar Democracy” with True, Real, and Deep Democracy!
Peter Mathews is the author of DOLLAR DEMOCRACY: WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME; HOW TO RECLAIM THE AMERICAN DREAM FOR ALL. He is also a Contributing Partner and Political Analyst on KEIB AM 1150 Radio’s “Head On” talk show from 12 Noon to 2 PM on Saturdays. Visit him at www.epetermathews.com.