Washington, DC and the right wing outrage machine are all abuzz that the IRS allegedly targeted groups based on their presumed political affiliation. Obviously, that was wrong to do, but let's not forget that there are two IRS scandals.
Government advocates have watched with dismay as the Supreme Court has systematically dismantled campaign finance laws, all while making it harder for individual Americans to secure their right to vote. This pattern isn't just the result of the conservative justices' misreading of the Constitution.
Today is Tax Day. Most of us will dutifully pay our taxes to a government that no longer represents us. Policy decisions on nearly every issue, regardless of public opinion, are decided in favor of a select few who can afford to write massive checks, host campaign fundraisers, and hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists. That might read as an exaggeration to some, but it's a verifiable fact of the American political system. A new analysis of 1,779 recent policy outcomes by researchers at Princeton and Northwestern found that "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," while average citizens -- the people in "We, the People" -- "have little or no independent influence." Why? Because if you want representation in today's Washington, you must buy your way in.
Money influences elections, as everybody knows, but the influence of money in things like drafting legislation in committees, state laws and regulations, appointments to government offices or regulatory bodies,is not as broadly understood. It is also probably more nefarious.
Despite the obvious need for revised rules, the IRS rulemaking has unfortunately become a divisive partisan issue and the political punching bag du jour.
I know it does not bode well that at 24 I am this jaded about the political process. I have had enough of politicians not listening to me and the rest of us while they continue to act as they please.
This is really about Republicans trying to stop the IRS from policing the big right-wing political groups that are using special tax status to mask their donors. This is an intimidation tactic.
Now legally for sale to the highest bidder, multi-party representative democracy may well be compromised beyond repair. When elected officials increasingly represent their contributors instead of constituents, voting becomes a form of disenfranchisement disguised as consent of the governed. The more things get out of hand, the less radical the alternatives appear. To restore the rule of the many over money, we need to go way beyond the same old campaign financing debate and start thinking about reforming our system of democratic governance itself. It's time to open up the political imagination and think outside the conventional ballot box.
With McCutcheon, the Supreme Court laid the groundwork for eliminating the remaining "remnant" of our campaign finance laws in two specific ways.
Chief Justice John Roberts persists in denying what to the broad swath of the American public is self-evident: Money is corrupting our politics and undermining public confidence in our political institutions.
On Wednesday the five-man U.S. Supreme Court majority dropped the second shoe hard on the notion of political democracy. The first shoe was dropped four years ago in the Citizens United case.
As in Citizens United, five conservative Justices, led by the good ole' "umpire" John Roberts, decided that they know better than the nation's elected representatives whether one individual contributing millions to campaigns and parties creates the "appearance" of corruption. If that's not judicial activism, I don't know what is.
Policy solutions are easy to come up with. The enormous challenge is that the more wealth is concentrated, the harder it becomes to enact those policies.
Political speech is the most important speech and certainly the speech we are most concerned the government will try to shutdown. Without the free exercise of political speech, we lose our basic right to a redress of grievances.