Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement last week after thirty-four years on the Supreme Court and President Obama must nominate a replacement. Stevens is a legal moderate, first appointed as a federal judge by Republican President Richard Nixon and then nominated to the highest court by Republican President Gerald Ford. Stevens is denounced by the Wrong in the United States as a liberal because the Supreme Court has moved to the far Wrong since the Reagan years. The Wrong is already demanding that Obama nominate a "fair and balanced" choice, preferably someone acceptable to "fair and balanced" Fox News commentators. I thought this was an appropriate time to add my own views on the United States Supreme Court.
Impeach the Whole Bunch of Them
In the United States, money buys elections, influence, and laws. Wall Street bankers are letting the Democratic Party know that if they attempt to regulate the financial chicanery that left them rich and the rest of us poised over the economic precipice, they will channel their money to the Republicans. Lenders spent millions trying to influence (the polite word) elected officials to allow them to continue to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from lucrative government insured student loans. Insurance companies agreed to support health "reform" as long as the federal government would buy the insurance from them.
In New York City, Mayor Michael "Money Bags" Bloomberg spent about 120 million dollars of his own money on his reelection campaign, and that does not count donations to the favorite charities of other politicians, outright campaign contributions to them, or the money he spent overturning the city's term limits law. The Democrats are not any better. Real Estate interests, many that are supposedly under investigation by the state attorney general's office, are pouring millions of dollars into Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial election fund.
On the national level, in 2008 Barack Obama opted out of the federal matching funds program so he could raise extra money privately - about three-quarters of a billion dollars. Obama's campaign received 43 million dollars from law firms, 15 million dollars from Wall Street banks and brokers, 12 million dollars from health "professionals," three million dollars from hospitals and nursing homes, and millions from nuclear and electric power companies. Two oil company CEOs were on his fundraising team. They paid for his election with cash so it should not come as a surprise that the Democratic Party reform proposals for the economy and health care seem incoherent at the best, pro-business at the worst
Evidently five members of the United States Supreme Court - the Wrong wing of the court -- think this is just the way a democracy should operate. In the name of "freedom of speech" for wealthy corporations, they recently threw out key provisions of the McCain-Feingold law (2002) that placed mild spending restrictions on wealthy businesses and organizations in an effort to moderate their ability to influence elections. I wonder what these Supreme Court Injustices will say when our wealthy creditors from China decide to buy the next presidential election?
Freedom of speech in the United States is guaranteed by two amendments to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Notice it says "the right of the people" and does not mention the "rights" of wealthy corporations.
The Fourteenth Amendment defines citizenship and the rights of citizens: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Note this amendment also discusses the rights of people and not the rights of wealthy corporations.
That corporations should have the same freedoms as people and citizens is a legal fiction that was "established" in a side comment by one Supreme Court Injustice speaking from the bench in 1886; it was not even a decision. I am still waiting for our prominent Wrong-wing textualists and originalists on the Supreme Court, Injustices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy to renounce this "precedent." Nowhere are corporate rights mentioned in the text of the United States Constitution and they were not in any way the original intent of the founders. Of course, the Supreme Court decision may have nothing to do with legal principles. It is about maintaining the power and privilege of the wealthy and rightwing control over government.
Justice John Paul Stevens, a legal moderate appointed by a Republican President, agrees with me on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) decision. In his dissent he wrote, "The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court's disposition of this case."
Fortunately there is an out, if any of our "leaders" have the political will to protect the rights of "We the People" who established this country. We could impeach the entire Supreme Court and start new with Justices committed to democratic principles.
In 1970, Congressman Gerald Ford (http://www.ford.utexas.edu/library/speeches/700415f.htm), later Vice President and President Gerald Ford, demanded the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, whom he felt was too liberal and expansive in his interpretation of the Constitution. According to Ford, "an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office." Ford argued that because they served for life, a higher standard of on-the-job performance should be expected of Supreme Court Justices and that they should be more subject to review and removal than elected officials. Since 1790, nine Federal judges, including one Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, have been impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate. Four of these judges were acquitted; four were convicted and removed from office; and one resigned during the trial.
Gerald Ford may not have been able to walk and chew gum at the same time. He may have taken too many hits to the head while playing football at Yale. But he sure had a good idea here. Let's impeach the whole bunch of them and start over.