Congressman Boehner, are you listening?
Like climate change, the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, to remove restrictions on corporate America's ability to finance political campaigns, makes everything we need to do more difficult.
The "money buys elected official, elected official determines public policy, public policy privatizes profits while socializing risk" reality has received more than just legal fortification; it's been given license and become a requirement.
Pouring even more money into its attempts to influence public policy is now required by Corporate America if it's to avoid breaching its fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder returns, a fundamental tenet of its mission. In other words, a case can now be made against companies that fail to do so.
Climate change, energy policy, health care and banking reform: these are not issues embroiling cottage industries. The corporate entities behind them have much to gain -- some would say everything -- with maintaining the status quo. And Fed chairman Bernanke has cited "too big to fail" as a significant systemic risk factor responsible for the 2009 financial melt-down, one that still remains in the system and that needs to be removed if we're to avoid similar debacles in the future.
The intersection of the Court's ruling with "too big to fail" and other important policy considerations creates a hazard of epic proportion.
But it's worse than that.
The decision facilitates the near certain decline in "our" representative democracy -- regardless of how tattered it may at times already appear to be.
Least we forget, America is not the sole owner of "Corporate America".
In August 2008 Reuters reported that "foreign ownership of US companies more than doubled from 1996 to 2005 measured by revenue and more than tripled as measured by assets ..."
The gathering clouds of our foreign debt and multi-national corporate ownership have collided with the financial winds necessary for birthing a perfect storm -- open and unfettered access for multi-national corporations to influence US policy here and abroad, coupled with fiduciary responsibility requiring that they do so.
How can ExxonMobil avoid abrogating its fiduciary responsibility to shareholders without embracing an even more vigorous campaign against elected officials whose proposed policies would curtail their profits, policies that affect structural changes to incentive programs, implementation of a carbon tax, or cap and trade?
Saudi Investment Bank ranked 35th on the 2006 list of top 100 Saudi Arabia companies. According to SIB's website, J.P. Morgan Chase is a shareholder. It is not rational to expect J.P. Morgan Chase to support financial industry reforms, let alone ones that might impact their investment in SIB. It is even less rational to expect them not to substantially increase their investment in opposing it those reforms
Furthermore, NAFTA and other US international trade agreements have come under fire for the "uneven economic playing field" they engender. This unevenness has resulted in economic destabilization that runs in both directions causing policy shifts away from supporting the ability of poorer people in developing nations to feed themselves, towards the need to supply a global market; away from a commitment to fuller more meaningful employment here in the US, towards the outsourcing of American jobs in exchange for cheaper labor overseas. And in this latter instance much of the blame is directed towards our higher costs of healthcare and environmental regulation.
Past political rhetoric involved the need to restructure these trade agreements to render American products and workers more competitive, affording better job prospects here, while ensuring a stronger commitment to environmental protection from our trading partners (regrettably, the effect these policies have had upon the global poor has not been central to the debate thus far). And given the need to address high rates of current US unemployment, it is logical to expect that these discussions will need to resume in the near future.
But our ability to negotiate international trade deals has always been constrained to the extent that those sitting across the negotiating table are also our lenders and owners. The Court's decision incentivizes their opposition to our requests by virtue of making it easier for them to affect the outcome of our elections. In a real sense, our elections are no longer ours. This decision is not just bad for America; it's bad for poor people the world over.
House minority leader John Boehner's assertion that the Court's decision is "a step in the right direction" should be more than just a cause for pause. It should be something that's remembered, every time he and others of his ilk speak of their commitment to American jobs and democracy.
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