Uh-oh, Thom’s talking politics.
Yeah, I know, this isn’t a political blog. As a rule, I tend to focus on the grass-roots quirkiness of our day-to-day lives and steer miles clear of the he-said-she-said-let-me-promise-you-the-world-and-then-stab-you-in-the-back DC mentality. But politics, by nature, occasionally collides with the real world. So, here we go:
Just over a week ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to loosen campaign finance restrictions on corporations.
I’ve seen pizzas that have a stronger claim to the title “Supreme” than does that court.
“What’s the big deal?” you might say. “Who cares how much money a company can dump into a campaign?” Others might say, “Hey, why can’t I give candidate ‘X’ fifty trillion dollars?” Still others might gripe, “Why won’t candidate ‘X’ give me fifty trillion dollars?!” And yes, some might sit on the couch, chips in hand, and ask, “Is Seinfeld still making that sit-com?” (Those in this exclusive camp may sit this one out.)
So, let’s see if Thom can make sense of this issue.
Corporations are not registered voters. I’ve never seen General Motors or Chevron Oil exiting a voting booth wearing one of those little red, white, and blue stickers that read, “I voted.” I’ve never sat in the cafeteria with Wal-Mart Corporation critiquing Avatar over tuna fish sandwiches. Despite their tax status, corporations are not living, breathing, human beings. (Nor are zombies, but that’s a different issue altogether.)
The role of big business is to supply jobs, to fuel the economy, and hopefully to better the lives of employees, shareholders, and customers. But, though a corporation is, in a sense, a legal person – it pays taxes like a person – it is not a person. Nor, does it represent the views of every employee, shareholder, or customer. This has always been my contention with corporations and labor unions that endorse candidates. When an entity “endorses” someone, who is it really that is behind that candidate? The upper echelon of the organization, not the every day, living paycheck-to-paycheck type who is affected by these decisions. When a company boasting 100,000 employees stands behind a candidate, it doesn’t mean that those 100,000 are actually on board with the decision. Some employees might even be violently opposed to the chosen candidate.
Why then should this inhuman entity be granted such freedom with regard to campaign contributions? Individuals aren’t afforded this same luxury.
I don’t believe any entity – human or corporate – should have an unfair influence in the election process.
Yeah, call me naïve. Fine. I get it. The rich always have more influence, more swagger and sway. It’s the way of the world. Always has been, always will. But that’s mostly because the system supports that influence. Imagine a pie-in-the-sky-never-going-to-happen-but-sure-wish-it-would scenario where, electorally speaking at least, we all had an equal voice. Where Bill Gates didn’t have more influence than Jill the check-out clerk. Where Donald Trump gets put on hold by some English-as-a-third-language customer service rep living somewhere in the suburbs of New Delhi.
Could it happen? Theoretically, yes. Will it happen? Probably not in this lifetime.
Here’s the issue as I see it. Money needs to be removed from the equation. “Oh, is that all?” you might exclaim. “And here I thought you were talking something difficult.” Yeah, I know, naïve, blah, blah, blah. Allow me to continue.
Campaigns cost money – lots and lots of money. Big dinero. Mondo moolah. But what if there was a way to minimize that need? Here are my thoughts:
1) If less money is available to all candidates, then campaigns will adapt to this new paradigm.
2) As individuals can vote and organizations cannot, eliminate political action committees (PACs), corporate donations, and the like, thus negating their ability to circumvent contribution caps placed on private citizens. This would mean that each voter had the equal right to donate within that cap and no one would be able to funnel large sums through an alternate venue. The goal here is to eliminate all corporate and special interest contributions, giving the sole funding ability back to the ordinary citizen. Holding everyone to a cap in or around $1,000, would then empower the everyman and dilute the abilities of the mondo-wealthy to wield God-like control.
3) A sizeable chunk of campaign spending goes to advertising. Yep, the candidates need to get their message to the people. But, if we lessen the money needed, this diminishes the need for huge spending. How do we do that? The broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) broadcast on public airwaves. The same is true of radio stations. They are licensed by the government to do so. These networks and stations could have, as part of their licensing agreement, an obligation to air a certain amount of free advertising time for each candidate. Suddenly, the campaigns are much less costly.
Yes, I recognize that these are radical thoughts. And yes, a lot would need to be ironed out. But the spirit of what I’m trying to say is this. We live in the 21st century. (You probably already knew this.) We don’t live back in the days when only landowners were allowed to vote. In theory, we are all supposed to have an equal voice. But we don’t. The goal is to bring the reality of the system more in line with the intent of the system. Some will argue that eliminating organizational donations will impair freedom of speech. I argue the opposite. By lessening the role of money and corporation influence, we’re giving us all the same size megaphone.
Enough about politics. Now, anyone for a silly, poorly-made zombie flick?
Thom Reese is a Las Vegas based writer whose weekly radio show, 21st Century Audio Theatre, previously aired on the 50,000 watt KDWN. Fourteen of Thom’s audio dramas will be released by Speaking Volumes Quality Audio Books throughout 2010. Thom studied comedy writing at The Second City and works in market research for CBS Broadcasting.
Copyright 2010 Thom Reese All Rights Reserved.
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