Perhaps you’d expect no more from the Republican leader of the Senate who proclaimed three years ago that the GOP’s first priority was to get Obama out of the White House.
But Senator Mitch McConnell’s speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington is simply bonkers.
The only reason I bring it up is because it offers an inside look at how the Republican goal of getting rid of Obama is inextricably linked to the Republican Supreme Court’s decision equating corporations with people under the First Amendment, and to the Republican’s current determination to keep Americans in the dark about which corporations contribute what.
In the upside-down world of regressive Republicanism, McConnell thinks proposed legislation requiring companies to disclose their campaign spending would stifle their free speech.
He describes the current push to disclose the sources behind campaign contributions as a “political weapon,” used by the Democrats, “to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation.”
Harassment and intimidation? It used to be called accountability to shareholders and consumers.
Five members of the Supreme Court think corporations are people. Mitt Romney agrees. And now the minority leader of the Senate – the highest-ranking Republican official in America – takes this logic to its absurd conclusion: If corporations are people, they must be capable of feeling harassed and intimidated if their shareholders or consumers don’t approve of their political expenditures.
Hell, they might even throw a tantrum. Or cry.
But what exactly are corporations anyway, separate and apart from their shareholders and consumers? Legal fictions, pieces of paper.
And whom do corporations exist for if not the people who legally own them and those who purchase the products and services they sell?
Clearly, McConnell doesn’t want corporations to be forced to disclose their political contributions because he and other Republicans worry that some shareholders and consumers would react badly if they knew – and thereby constrain such giving.
And the reason McConnell and other Republicans don’t want any constraint on corporate political giving is most CEOs are Republicans who want to use their firms – and the money their shareholders legally own – as secret slush funds for the Republican Party, funneled through front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS.
Crossroads GPS has disclosed on its tax returns that 23 donors to it have each given $1 million or more to finance its campaign activities. But Crossroads claims status as a charity under IRS rules – a “social welfare” organization” that doesn’t have to disclose its donors – even though anyone with half a brain knows its overriding purpose is to influence elections.
McConnell and other Republicans conveniently forget secret campaign money was at the heart of the Watergate scandals forty years ago. And that even the Supreme Court in its heinous “Citizens United” decision upheld the constitutionality of disclosure requirements on corporations and other outside groups.
Mitch McConnell wants to give some cover to his Republican colleagues who will be voting later this month or early next month on the bill to force full disclosure of corporate political expenses. But his speech at the American Enterprise Institute doesn’t provide cover. It cloaks the whole Republican enterprise in political bunk.
Reich for [insert public office] ‘16
True patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going.
Those who earn tens of millions of dollars a year but pay less than 14 percent of their incomes in taxes, and argue the rich should pay even less, are not true patriots.
Those who defend indefensible tax loopholes, such as the “carried interest” loophole that allows private-equity managers to treat their incomes as capital gains even if they risk no income of their own, are not true patriots.
Those who avoid taxes by putting huge amounts of their earnings into IRAs via foreign tax shelters are not true patriots.
Those who want to cut programs that benefit the poor — Food stamps, child nutrition, Pell grants, Medicaid — so that they can get a tax cut for themselves and their affluent friends— are not true patriots.
So how do you really feel about Romney?
As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wrote in 1904, “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”
But the wealthiest Americans, who haven’t raked in as much of America’s income and wealth since the 1920s, are today paying a lower tax rate than they have in over thirty years. Even though America faces a mammoth federal budget deficit. Even though public services at all levels of government continue to be slashed. Even though the median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. Even though the typical American is paying more of his or her earnings in taxes – including payroll taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes – than ever before.
I’m not a class warrior. I’m a class worrier. And my worries go to why all this has happened.
I worry about the political power than comes with great wealth – such as the power of the wealthy to reduce their taxes, cut the public services most other Americans depend on, while at the same time garnering special subsidies and tax breaks for their businesses – big oil, big pharma, big agriculture, military contractors, big insurance, Wall Street.
I worry about the well-financed big lies that the very rich are the nation’s “job creators,” that the benefits from tax cuts on the rich “trickle down” to everyone else, that American corporations will create more jobs if only their taxes are lowered and if regulations protecting health, safety, and the environment were jettisoned.
I worry about the increasing dominance of Wall Street over our economy and democracy, and the near political impossibilities of closing the “carried interest” loophole that allows private-equity and hedge-fund managers to treat their income as capital gains subject to only 15% tax; of resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act separating investment from commercial banking, and of breaking up the big banks to protect against another financial crash and bailout of the Street.
You and I have every right to be class worriers – and to be outraged at what has occurred. But we must get beyond worry and outrage, and do everything in our power to take back our economy and reclaim our democracy.
It was another justice of the Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, who wrote in 1897, “we may have a democracy or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”