Friday, March 18, 2011

The Recession Is Over For Some People (Part 5)...

     ...but it is going to last a long time for the rest of us. In order to speed up the flow of assets from the bottom of the economic pyramid to the top, the rich have acquired the services of a powerful ally: the U.S. Supreme Court. Observe the following:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce

      According to its web site, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “ the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations...As the voice of business, the Chamber's core purpose is to fight for free enterprise before Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, the courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world.”
     In view of that declaration, note the following from the Daily Kos of March 14, 2011: Carter G. Phillips, who often represents the chamber and has argued more Supreme Court cases than any other active lawyer in private practice, reflected on its influence. “I know from personal experience that the chamber’s support carries significant weight with the justices,” he wrote. “Except for the solicitor general representing the United States, no single entity has more influence on what cases the Supreme Court decides and how it decides them than the National Chamber Litigation Center.”
     The Chamber of Commerce is funded by the dues of its members; larger members are assessed higher dues. Presumably they also have more input to the Chamber's activities, hence to the Court.


      Corporations are established by legislatures; a corporation exists subject to state laws specifying requirements for its creation, management organization, records to be kept, taxes to be paid, etc.
     Although we generally think the purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders, there are also non-profit and charitable corporations: entities organized in the corporate format in order to give them legal standing. Their purpose is to establish a framework for the efficient collection and distribution of money for whatever causes their contributors deem worthy. Note that regardless of a corporation's purpose, it exists strictly on paper.
     Because of the ability of corporations to raise large sums of money, Congress has limited their role in political activity ever since the 19th century. In particular, there have been various laws and precedents regarding political advertisements targeting individual candidates for public office. The theory was that although shareholders could speak out individually in order to influence elections, allowing corporations to exercise such activity collectively would unduly tip the campaign playing field. The corporation was not a person, so regulation of its First Amendment rights was acceptable.
     Not any more! According to the Supreme Court, a corporation is now a person! A little background is in order.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

      Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit organization produced a political documentary movie, Hillary: The Movie, which was critical of Senator Hillary Clinton. The group then ran a series of television commercials promoting the movie, which was scheduled to air on DirectTV, but the government blocked it.
     In January 2008, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the commercials violated provisions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain–Feingold) restricting "electioneering communications" 30 days before primaries. Though the political action committee claimed that their film was fact-based and nonpartisan, the lower Court found that the film had no purpose other than to discredit Clinton's candidacy for President. The Supreme Court docketed the case on August 18, 2008, and heard oral argument on March 24, 2009.
     The purpose of the appeal was to determine whether the commercials were in fact banned political activity. Let me digress for a moment.

The U.S. Supreme Court

      Stare Decisis is a legal principle derived from the Latin maxim Stare decisis et non quieta movere: "to stand by decisions and not disturb the undisturbed." In a legal context, this is understood to mean that courts should generally abide by precedents and not disturb settled matters. Here are some comments on the principle by current justices of the Supreme Court:

      John Roberts' confirmaion hearing: “To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the judges, they need to be bound down by rules and precedents.”
     Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing: “...[Stare decisis] is not an inexorable command," but there must be a strong "presumption that courts are going to follow prior precedents."
     Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearing: "...stare decisis provides continuity to our system, it provides predictability, and in our process of case-by-case decision making, I think it is a very important and critical concept."
     Antonin Scalia – A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law: “However, there is still room within an originalist paradigm for stare decisis; whenever the plain meaning of the text has alternative constructions, past precedent is generally considered a valid guide, with the qualifier being that it cannot change what the text actually says.”
     Anthony Mcleod Kennedy - Further Readings: "The obligation to follow precedent begins with necessity, and a contrary necessity marks its outer limit."

      From these remarks one would expect the Court to simply decide whether the Citizens United ads constituted political activity, but instead the Court decided to answer a question no one had asked: Should the restrictions on political activity by corporations be declared unconstitutional?
     After giving lip service to the doctrine of stare decisis, these five justices decided to overrule 100+ years of precedents! Corporations were suddenly upgraded from paper to personhood! With the stroke of a pen the Court brought the Golden Rule up-to-date: He who has the gold makes the rules. Heaven help the non-rich!
     Subjective nouns are a description of the internal states of certain portions of the brain. An external analogy would be the comparison of a container to its contents. If I say there is a glass of milk on the counter, and state further that the contents are buttermilk as opposed to whole milk, chocolate milk or 2% milk, that is analogous to saying that the internal conditions of my brain are such that I am joyful, as opposed to depressed, happy, or in pain.
     An In-Depth Look At The Spirit's Activity – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The Spirit Runs Through It is available in paperback or on Kindle.

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