To the Editor:
Reduced to their basic elements, politics is concerned with the creation and distribution of power within a society, while economics delineates the creation and distribution of its wealth. Democracy and capitalism are not automatically, or even necessarily, synonymous. Socialist democracies exist, as do capitalist autocracies. At the time of the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the idea of a democracy, of a government by the people of a nation rather than by an aristocratic elite, was an untried and unproven proposal. If there was genius in the creation of this ground-breaking document, it was that, through argument and discussion and compromise, the Founding Fathers came upon an extensive system of checks and balances designed to prevent the abuse of power by any one sector of the many voices that make up the wide spectrum of interests that is “We the People”. This balancing of powers is crucial to the survival of democracy. No form of government will always be correct in its actions and America’s democracy is no exception, but it has had the capability and flexibility to correct its mistakes along the way.
Of equal importance to the maintenance of a democracy is a balance of wealth. This does not mean an equality of wealth, but rather a balanced distribution. In human nature there will always be some who pursue wealth relentlessly while others may care little about its accumulation. However, since the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, wealth has become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands to the point that today we have 400 billionaires with more wealth than that held by nearly the entire rest of the population. While some may wish to say this outcome is simply a result of “Social Darwinism”, that this is a natural process in capitalism, it has actually come to fruition through the halls of government, through a legislated tax structure that favors disproportionately the interests of the wealthy over those of the common citizen. The influence of money in politics acts as both the carrot and the stick in driving the legislative process.
Further, the five conservative Justices on the Supreme Court have consistently ruled that the interests of corporations supercede those of the individual and, in the Citizens United decision, have legitimatized money as integral to the right of free speech first granted in the Magna Carta in 1215. In today’s world of commercial advertising on radio and television, a world the Founders, even in their wildest dreams, could never have imagined, money in political campaigning has immense power. In these rulings, five men have radically tipped the scales of government in favor of the influence of wealth in the political system. In the coming presidential election it is projected that the combined campaigns alone may spend nearly a billion dollars and unprecedented amounts are pouring into Congressional races as well. To what end are the super rich funneling millions into Republican campaigns if not for the continuation of a favorable tax code and a lasting bias in the Supreme Court.
How the Conservative Justices find “original intent” in any of this requires a leap of logic that is hard enough to fathom without recalling that this was the same group that decided that an accurate accounting of the votes in Florida was inconvenient and unnecessary and installed George Bush as President over Al Gore in 2000 and realizing just how much power the Court has assumed for itself over the years. It is impossible to imagine the writers of the Constitution not being shocked at the shambles their checks and balances are in today and that their dream of democracy is being supplanted by a wealthy ruling class.