Celebrating two years of corporate rule under the terms dictated by Citizens United

It’s been two years since the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case, giving corporations the ability to spend unprecedented amounts of money to influence American elections. Here, with some some thoughts on the ramifications of that decision is our favorite journalist, Chris Hedges.

…Our electoral system, already hostage to corporate money and corporate lobbyists, gasped its last two years ago. It died on Jan. 21, 2010, when the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission granted to corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts on independent political campaigns. The ruling turned politicians into corporate employees. If any politician steps out of line, dares to defy corporate demands, this ruling hands to our corporate overlords the ability to pump massive amounts of anonymous money into campaigns to make sure the wayward are defeated and silenced. Politicians like Obama are hostages. They jump when corporations say jump. They beg when corporations say beg. They hand corporations exemptions, subsidies, trillions in taxpayer money, no-bid contracts and massive loans with virtually no interest, and they abolish any regulations that impede profits and protect the citizen. Corporations like Goldman Sachs, because they own the system, are bailed out by federal dollars and given essentially free government loans to gamble. I am not sure what to call our economic system, but it is not capitalism. And if any elected official so much as murmurs anything that sounds like dissent, the Supreme Court ruling permits corporations to destroy him or her. And they do.

Turn off your televisions. Ignore the Newt-Mitt-Rick-Barack reality show. It is as relevant to your life as the gossip on “Jersey Shore.” The real debate, the debate raised by the Occupy movement about inequality, corporate malfeasance, the destruction of the ecosystem, and the security and surveillance state, is the only debate that matters. You won’t hear it on the corporate-owned airwaves and cable networks, including MSNBC, which has become to the Democratic Party what Fox News is to the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. You won’t hear it on NPR or PBS. You won’t read about it in our major newspapers. The issues that matter are being debated, however, on “Democracy Now!,” Link TV, The Real News, Occupy websites and Revolution Truth. They are being raised by journalists such as Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi. You can find genuine ideas in corners of the Internet or in books by political philosophers such as Sheldon Wolin. But you have to go looking for them.

Voting will not alter the corporate systems of power. Voting is an act of political theater. Voting in the United States is as futile and sterile as in the elections I covered as a reporter in dictatorships like Syria, Iran and Iraq. There were always opposition candidates offered up by these dictatorships. Give the people the illusion of choice. Throw up the pretense of debate. Let the power elite hold public celebrations to exalt the triumph of popular will. We can vote for Romney or Obama, but Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil and Bank of America and the defense contractors always win. There is little difference between our electoral charade and the ones endured by the Syrians and Iranians. Do we really believe that Obama has, or ever had, any intention to change the culture in Washington?…

Our efforts must be directed toward acts of civil disobedience, to chipping away, through nonviolent protest, at the pillars of established, corporate power. The corporate state is so unfair, so corrupt and so rotten that the institutions tasked with holding it up—the police, the press, the banking system, the civil service and the judiciary—have become vulnerable. It is becoming harder and harder for the corporations to convince its foot soldiers to hold the system in place.

And, assuming you agree, here’s Bill Moyers telling you how to get involved and start fighting back.

Ask Bill: How can ordinary people help to overturn or nullify the Citizen United Decision? from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

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  1. Josh
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    all this is true, but voting is INCREDIBLY important.

    money dictates the outcome of the election through influencing the vote. it’s influencing the election by keeping people away, too — unacceptable.

    if gingrich, santorum, or romney gain office things will be far worse.

  2. Posted January 24, 2012 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Hedges, as he points out in the article, is still planning to vote. He just intends to vote for someone, like the Green Party candidate, who doesn’t stand a chance.

  3. Posted January 24, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    So Hedges says:

    It died on Jan. 21, 2010, when the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission granted to corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts on independent political campaigns.

    In which 5 republican appointed judges said there should not be any bans on corporate spending, and the 4 justices appointed by democrats dissented.

    So his logical conclusion is:

    Voting will not alter the corporate systems of power.

  4. Mr. X
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Good point, Dragon. I agree that, as much as we like to complain about Obama, there is a difference between him and Gignrich/Romney. And, for that reason, I won’t be voting for a third party candidate come November. Still, though, I think we need to keep the pressure on Obama to fight for things we as progressives think are important, like public education, science funding, health care, and civil rights. We need to be strengthening the public safety net, not weakening it. We need to get the money out of politics. We need to prosecute the bankers responsible for the collapse of our economy. We need to enact tough environmental legislation. And we need to honor the Bill of Rights. We can’t let Obama shirk his responsibilities on these matters. And, for that reason, I’ll keep encouraging Hedges in his quest.

  5. Meta
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    According to a new poll, only 17% of Americans agree that corporations should be able to expend unlimited cash on U.S. elections.


  6. K2
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Having visited the Occupy encampment in Ann Arbor, and met some of the people hanging around it, I was particularly struck by the following portion of this Hedges article.

    The Washington encampment, like many Occupy encampments, has had to deal with those the wider society has discarded—the homeless, the mentally ill, the destitute and those whose lives have been devastated by substance abuse. This created a huge burden for the organizers, who decided that they were not equipped or able to deal with these wider, societal problems. The encampment in Washington’s Freedom Plaza enforces strict rules of behavior, including an insistence on sobriety, in order to endure through the winter and ensure its own survival. Other Occupy movements will have to do the same.

  7. Demetrius
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink


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