Thursday, April 03, 2014

The closest parallel to today came in the late 19th century

Justice Louis Brandeis

Robert Reich
April 3, 2014

If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, yesterday’s shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous. But unlimited political donations coupled with widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.

The closest parallel to today came in the late 19th century, when the lackeys of robber barons were literally depositing sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators. The great jurist Louis Brandeis (below) noted that the nation had a choice: “We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few,” he said. “But we cannot have both.” Soon thereafter America reached a tipping point. Public outrage gave birth to the progressive era, in which the nation’s first campaign finance laws were enacted, trusts were broken up, a progressive income tax was instituted, regulations barred impure food and drugs, and the first labor laws put into effect in several states.

When do we reach another tipping point? And what happens then?

Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Political Donation Cap
APRIL 2, 2014

...The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, was brought by Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman, and the Republican National Committee. Mr. McCutcheon, who had contributed a total of about $33,000 to 16 candidates for federal office in the 2012 election cycle, said he had wanted to give $1,776 each to 12 more but was stopped by the overall cap for individuals. The party committee said it wanted to receive contributions above the legal limit for political committees.

In an interview last fall, Mr. McCutcheon said his goal was to encourage the adoption of conservative principles...

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