This is perhaps the most depressing article that I’ve ever felt the need to write. But America is done, finis, kaput. Oh, we’re still strong today, and we will be for a few decades to come, but the mortal blow has been struck.
The only protection that American citizens have ever had against the vagaries and excesses of big business is the American government. Thanks to the conservatives on the Supreme Court, big business now owns not only the federal elections thanks to their decision in Citizens United, but (more importantly), due to their decision today in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock, big business owns the state and local elections too.
Why are the state and local elections more important than the federal elections? In a word: money. It’s easy to raise money for federal elections, but it’s hard to raise money for state or local elections. Thanks to the conservatives on the Supreme Court, a corporation can anoint a candidate which has promised them that they’ll get everything but the kitchen sink, and that corporation can pour millions, even tens of millions in dollars on that candidate if they want to in a small-town city election where (until today) even a few thousand dollars could make a big difference.
Even worse, now that big business will own elections, they will also own the judges who have to raise money for their elections, too. Big business will have the legislatures and the courts in its hip pocket, and there’s nothing, absolutely nothing that the American people can do about it this side of an almost-impossible constitutional amendment. So what’s so bad about big business doing what’s good for business? Not only can worker safety protections be rolled back with impunity, but so can benefits and wages. How? Again, when big business owns the legislatures and the judges, what recourse will American workers have? None.
And how bad can this get? Ask yourself this: without a government strong enough to stand up for the people, would we have held BP accountable for the Gulf oil spill? Would Exxon have been held accountable for the Exxon Valdez? What about Love Canal? Or acid rain? When business owns the politicians and the courts, they can literally get away with murder.
Worst of all is that because big business now owns the political process all the way from the grass roots level to the White House, there’s no way (barring a miraculous takeover of both houses of Congress in November (and Obama growing a pair big enough to matter)) that big business will ever give up its stranglehold on the American worker. big business will cut wages and benefits with impunity, and then when people don’t have enough money to buy what big business is selling, the CEO’s will be completely mystified by the lack of demand and the drop in profits. But they will not do what’s necessary to grow the economy as a whole, for the business community has never in and of itself been sufficient for a healthy economy. No, instead they will continue to strive to weaken government, to cut into workers’ wages and benefits and protections, never mind that every strong economy in the world has a strong government and good wages/benefits/protections for the workers. We are going to devolve, if not to third world status, then at least to something akin to that found in some of the Balkan nations: an old country with a marginal economy insufficient to really support itself. And thanks to big business owning the politicians and the courts, backroom deals will be a way of life and there’s absolutely nothing we’ll be able to do about it.
There are good and bad governments, and corrupt and not-so-corrupt governments, and even tyrannical and despotic governments. But in every case, no matter how bad the government is, the only protection citizens have against the vagaries and excesses of big business are that government. Thanks to the conservatives on the Supreme Court, we and our children and our children’s children will have little or no such protection. Again, it won’t happen overnight; it will take decades for the decision of the Supreme Court to bear fruit. But bear bitter fruit it will, and we’ll all have to take big honking bites.
America is done; we just don’t know it yet. Big business has won, and at the same time slit its own wrists. It, and America, have irrevocably embarked on the slow, painful path to national decline. It won’t happen all at once, and there will still be great success stories and moments of great hope and even of national pride and glory along the way, but the deed is done. And as we decline, as death slowly creeps along the veins and arteries of America’s democratic body politic, most of us won’t even understand what happened, or why. The best we can hope for is that we don’t take down the rest of the free world with us.