Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We the "People"

After today, election 2012 will be just another entry in the history books.  And I don't know if there has ever been a more tiresome, hate-filled race as that between the incumbent, Barack Obama and the challenger, former Gov. Willard Mitt Romney.

The hate didn't pour into the race from the contestants; it came from the nameless contributors to the super-pacs, who stand back unaccountable to anyone for their false claims.  These people turned the race into a $2 billion event, an obscene amount considering that both Obama and Romney bemoaned throughout how people were "hurting" in America.

Hurting?  Really?  Would either of them recognize real hurt?  Romney certainly wouldn't, since he never experienced it. Obama lived it in his early childhood, claims to know the pain felt by the hungry and unemployed, but one has to wonder how vivid those memories are.

But all of that aside, it would be nice if the new Congress, as one of its priorities in the coming years, addressed the one issue that made this presidential race as costly and full of vitriol: the definition of "people".

The United State Supreme Court ruled a while back that corporations are "people", thereby giving them the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to what became known as super pacs, those faceless entities that could say anything, do anything, contribute any amount to any candidate and stand unanswerable to anyone.

But are these corporate organizations really "people"?  I think not.  They don't operate under the same rules of bankruptcy as Average Joe, for instance;  they don't pay at the same tax rate as the majority of individuals, and their tax obligations are greatly minimized by the allowed deductions that are not available to Average Joe.  And when a corporation is sued, little pain is felt by the "people" within that business structure.  In fact, the protection from lawsuit is one of the primary reasons corporations are formed.

All of this aside, the only way of changing what has become a campaign finance free-for-all is for Congress to say to the mega rich: "Stop it.  Your corporate largess is no longer welcome.  We are legislatively determining that you are not 'people'.  Your contributions will be under the same limitations as Joe Average."

What would that accomplish?  Certainly campaign season would be shortened due to fewer funds available for travel and advertisements, and the mute buttons of television remotes would not be worn out from overuse during political commercials.  (Okay, so the last point was maybe a little factious.  Sorry.)  More important, the playing field would be closer to level for not only the candidates, but also voters. 

Yes, I recognize that the campaign field is never completely level.  Let's face it: we're a nation of haves and have-nots, even though we are reluctant to admit it.  If you want to run for national office (even statewide office, for that matter) you better have quite a few bucks in the old war chest.

What are the odds of Congress doing anything to more accurately define "people"?
Probably more than a million to one, considering most of them are millionaires who have benefited from the court's ridiculous ruling.

So the campaigns of 2012 will have ended by tonight.  Let the mid-term battles of 2014 and presidential election campaign of 2016 and the flow of money begin.

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