Monday, 15 February 2010

World's most powerful nation votes to further harm its political system?

I was saddened to hear of the recent decision by the US Supreme Court that governments cannot limit corporate donations to political parties.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not - at all - one of those knee-jerk anti-Americans that you often find in Europe (especially, I'm afraid, Continental Europe), saying what can you expect from the dark heart of capitalism etc. etc. No, I like a lot of things about the States, its dynamism and positivity. You get that if you live there, even if only for a few months like I did a few years back. I am less keen on its attitude to public services, or some of its awful reactionary laws. But again, let's not confuse America and Americans, most of whom I believe to be decent people with values very similar to ours.

But let's also be honest about its political system. There is a clear reason why the politics of the pork barrel has always blighted American politics, and that is the lack of regulation on party donations. Specifically, in the modern age the lack of regulation on TV advertising spots means that electioneering becomes a battle of wallets, not policies. You can see the result clearly on US TV during an election campaign.

You need, it is said, at least $1m to run for Congress where in the UK, by contrast, you can spend a maximum of about GBP 12,000 to become an MP. And what happens after a US election? Well, the people who gave that money want favours. In the process, even good men become corrupted.

So, what does this new law do? Firstly, to be completely non-partisan, it exacerbates the problem immensely by accelerating the money arms race. Secondly - to declare my obvious preference that the Democrats win - it slants the race in favour of the Republicans, who will always have deeper pockets in terms of corporate sponsorship.

As Obama says, "it's a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." Quite.

The corporate lobby, like every other grouping, has a right to their opinion. But it doesn't have the right to run a country.


  1. What can you expect from the dark heart of capitalism? ;-)

    It's just a shame that Obama didn't bring the change he promised - he could have mobilised his support for the kind of 'social' constitution FDR talked about before he died...

  2. Well, let's not write him off just yet. To be fair, what the Supreme Court does he's powerless to stop. (Why do the judges have to be political appointees, hence currently a Republican majority)?

    Anyway, let's see if he can do something useful before he gets thrashed in the mid-terms and is hobbled for the rest of his presidency, like Clinton. If he can even make modest improvements in healthcare, it'd be a start.

    Yes, we can...?

  3. I still hope, too. But he's blown hot and cold. The last minute thing at Copenhagen was unforgivable...

  4. It wasn't his finest hour, no. Have to confess to being fairly frustrated on Copenhagen.

    But, if you'll allow me a bit of moral relativism, rather him than a party who puts Sarah Palin as Vice-President, I guess...;)


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