Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Week in History

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country. —Thomas Jefferson, 1816

This past week we have witnessed two shocking events.

Event One

The Massachusetts Senate seat that had been held by liberal Democrat and adamant healthcare reform advocate Ted Kennedy for 46 years was taken by conservative Republican Scott Brown. Having grown up in Massachusetts I can hardly believe this could happen! But worse was the news from my family about how they perceived that it came about.

“It was like a huge political machine came in and took the state by storm!” My mother said her phone rang off the hook all night for a week before the election and every time it was from a campaigner for the Republican party, each with a different take on why she should turn her back on the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley. My mother has been a registered Democrat since she first became eligible to vote.

“They even got some dumb ex-Red Sox player to call me up!” my mother said. “He said I shouldn’t vote for Coakley because she called him a “Yankees fan! Well, maybe that was a mistake in Red Sox territory but a reason to throw the election?!! They were using EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK!!!”

It snowed hard on election night in Massachusetts. Statistics from the polling stations showed that the wealthiest communities came out to vote in force. The poorer communities didn’t make it to the booths in anywhere near the same numbers. And many of the people polled in those neighborhoods were the most confused about the value in it. They didn’t vote because Coakley didn’t measure up to Ted Kennedy. She didn’t work hard enough at it— “she came across like a cold fish!” one family member of mine said—while Scott Brown was quite the opposite. And the national healthcare legislation she would have voted for in the Senate was a very poor substitute for the far more progressive healthcare policies in their own state. Why would they want to support a lesser one?

And yet, vote for a Republican in Massachusetts? For a lot of working class people it was a hard choice to brave the storm to go to the polls at all.

Event Two

The Supreme Court, last Wednesday, in a 5-4 decision took away any limits on campaign contributions by corporate entities. Corporations that are based anywhere in the country can now legally use their purchasing power to influence the elections in every state in the union.  Essentially, the Supreme Court said, if you want to buy the next election, go right ahead!


Words cannot express my level of disbelief. No limits on how much multinational corporations who may not even have the best interests of THIS country at heart are free to spend in order to determine the results of elections? With a net worth of 2.1 trillion dollars, JPMorgan Chase alone has potentially more resource than most small nations. 2.1 trillion dollars is approximately the Gross National Income in terms of PPP dollars (purchasing power parity) of France.

Now I do, of course, know that neither France or Chase has anywhere near that kind of money at their disposal at the drop of a hat. But if you don’t think a company of that stature doesn’t have enough disposable income lying around to be much of a threat, you aren’t paying attention. And Chase isn’t the only multinational near the top of Forbes Magazine’s list of the Richest Companies in the World based in the United States. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, General Electric, AT&T and Wal-Mart are even higher than that.

Think there’s no connection between the significance of these two events? Do you think the CEOs and Boards of Directors of these companies are stacked with progressive-thinking left wing liberal Democrats?

I don’t either.

1 comment:

Alys Milner said...

Well said, Sheryl. Depressing, but well said.