Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

Politics isn’t Hard: Robert Reich on Regressives

with 3 comments

Politics isn’t hard. Here Robert Reich, as he often does, boils things down to their essence.

One of the best parts of this is that Reich doesn’t let conservatives define themselves, or attack them for failing to live up to supposed conservative principles. He connects our history, or the better parts of it, with our future. He offers a narrative of American and conservatives that makes sense of where we are and were we need to go.

I only have one objection. Number four is treating corporations as people and money as speech under the First Amendment, “thereby inundating our democracy with campaign money from billionaires and big corporations and Wall Street so the rest of us cannot be heard”. I’ve objected to this formulation before. First, it places all the responsibility on the Supreme Court for a situation also caused by Congress, campaign consultants, the media and candidates. Second, it wrongly suggests the solution is “less speech” not increasing the opportunity for the excluded voices to be heard.* And third it suggests that the only way to address it is a constitutional amendment.

I’d say the issue here is a system that is corrupt.  It forces candidates to spend all their time fundraising while those with the most money are guaranteed to be heard by public officials while the issues the rest of us care about are kept off the agenda. People-powered campaigns are the first step to solving this problem as well as demanding that corporations be transparent about their spending (both campaign and lobbying, which is left out of the money=speech framework) and require shareholders to approve them. We could also work to ensure institutional investors are committed to voting no (and to limiting CEO pay, golden parachutes and bonuses).

*As long as there is no trigger mechanism where candidates get more funding when the other side spends more, this poses no problem as far as the Court is concerned.

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Written by David Kaib

July 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm

3 Responses

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  1. David, I don’t get your objection to #4 — it is the #4 part of the Regressives’s plan, which includes the entire corrupt system – including Congress, campaign consultants, media, and candidates and their plans for “less speech” from the vulnerable and powerless. And I think the first drawing Reich made on the PROgressive side – several people representing most of us can be interpreted to signify people-power. The video is a broad brush of the situation; it doesn’t address any details such as disclosure rules or shareholder approval.

    The message of the video for me is to say there’s something at stake in this presidential campaign. It’s not just a lesser of two evils moment.

    Thanks for posting!

    Michele Kelly

    July 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    • I think the “corporations = people and money = speech” focuses our attention on amendment, on the Court, and on and limiting corporate speech. Most of our discussions over this issue do the same thing, and as a result the solutions offered are both too broad and too narrow. I’m not asking Reich to list all of the policy angles, I’m asking him to use a simple message that could be tied to them, as oppose to one that suggests these things don’t matter.

      David Kaib

      July 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm

  2. […] is the problem, equality the solution. It’s not that hard.  (I made the same point about Robert Reich before).  He also discards the silly notion that government has been trying to fix this problem, or […]


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