Sunday, January 24, 2010

Judicial Activism for the Corporations


On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision that grants immense power to corporations and other special interest lobbies. The conservative decision overturned Congressional legislation and SC precedent which is tremendously ironic since conservatives cry 'judicial activism' every time the Court has handed down a 'liberal' decision in recent decades. Corporations are now equated with humans, protected by the 1st Amendment freedoms of 'expression,' including spending as much $$$ as they need in all the way up to election day to defeat candidates who oppose their agenda.

President Obama has turned populist this week, proposing new regulations on banks and decrying this Court decision. In his weekly address yesterday, he proclaimed:

This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.

No doubt, he and the Democratic congress are feeling the angry heat of the American people who desperately want to blame someone/anyone for our economic desert. The far right (the notorious Tea Party movement) and the far left (progressives) are using very similiar language in regards to the overwhelming power of the corporations. Yet, when we read between the lines of the conservative movmement in the US, we can understand that they are unwilling to fight the power corporations with government regulation. Thomas Frank (in a Bill Moyers interview last week) summarized the conservative political mindset:

That the market is...the universal principle of human civilization. And that government is a kind of interloper, if not a, you know, criminal gang.

Later in the interview, Frank expands his analysis of conservatives:

Taxation is a form of theft. It's as bad as a mugger in the street saying, "Give me your money." And America is pretty much unique among the nations in that our political system, half of our political system is basically dedicated to the destruction of the government from within. I don't know any other country where that's the case. But there's plenty of countries where government works really, really well. I mean, even, for God's sake, in India, you know, which we don't think of as being an advanced industrial society, their banks didn't all go bust in the latest downturn. Now, why is that?

Sam Tanenhaus, in a NY Times piece today, compares the 'purists' on the right with the 'populists' (Obama's new turn) on the left:

The post-partisan consensus that seemed possible a year ago has given way to a curious harmony of dissent — as both sides denounce government bailouts and Wall Street bonuses. But in fact, two different protests are under way. One, most visible on the left, is rooted in traditional populism that favors increased government. The other, on the right, springs from a purist strain in American politics that distrusts government altogether...

A parallel dislike of the elite animates both populism and purism. But the two find that elite in different places. Populists deplore the rich, for instance the corporate executives now reaping large bonuses. Purists dislike the governing class — politicians who readily abandon core principles and strike deals with the other side.


A lot of Americans are pissed right now. What divides us into two groups is the question of who is to blame and how to fix this mess. An analysis of the American Body of Christ, along these terms, is illuminating. As Cornel West pointed out in his book Democracy Matters, American Christians are either Constantinian or Prophetic.

The Constantinians equate power and success with the American empire and overwhelmingly embrace 'free-market fundamentalism' as their ideology. Government is the bad guy who taxes Americans' money earned through hard work and creativity. Everyone, Constantinians believe, has an equal opportunity to succeed and accomplish the American Dream: an education, a job, a house, a pension, etc. Constantinians view the world through the eyes of the 'successful' and 'powerful' and 'accomplished' in our society who have (apparently) pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. The fail to see the safety net that is taken for granted in the suburbs.

Prophetic Christians view the world through the eyes of those disadvantaged and oppressed--all those left-behind by militarist, imperialist, corporate-capitalist and authoritarian policies. When these policies disregard the widening income inequality and continue the long-legacy of race, sex, and gender structural discrimination, then government must act to regulate corporate greed. Fact: banks and financial institutions benefited greatly with 'sub-prime loans' and 'credit-default swaps,' as the lower-and-middle-classes continue to have their homes foreclosed, or (if they are fortunate enough to keep their homes) pay higher and higher interest rates (though the charging of interest on money loaned is clearly banned in the Bible!).

EasyYolk believes that prophetic Christian faith reflects the way of Jesus the marginalized, impoverished Nazarene, who fought for the underdog and critiqued the Jewish and Roman policies that held many down. The Court decision on Thursday will, no doubt, have brutal effects on all those on the margins whose voices will be drowned out by a litany of political ads funded by millions of corporate dollars invested to increase their profit margins through political and economic policies that benefit them first and foremost.

--Theological Autopilot

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