Catching Up On Last Week’s News

“Full employment” and “elimination of poverty” are two very different things. Charlie Stross has a wonderful post in which he lays out exactly why the workfare vision of full employment, born of ignorance and disdain, is an ugly and needless thing:

A nation of slaves – Charlie’s Diary

The TL/DR for the few of you who can pass up a Charlie Stross post: People who have never worked a day in their lives are trying to force people who weren’t born into wealth into jobs that don’t pay and don’t provide any great benefit to society. This is an increasingly pointless thing as the need for human labor has been declining for decades and will continue to do so, so maybe we need to figure out a new system that reflects this reality.

But Charlie says it much better than that, so I implore you to go read his post. The idea of how people earn a living really needs to change because what we’re doing now is not sustainable and it’s only going to get worse.

Just like “full employment” and “elimination of poverty are different things, so too are “money” and “speech,”* but the U.S. Supreme Court is being willfully obtuse about it. They’ve determined that spending money on a campaign does not result in quid pro quo corruption. No. Really. That’s what Justice Roberts said:

“Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties.”

It’s a statement that beggars belief, but regardless of how absurd and disingenuous Roberts is being, the fact remains that campaign finance reform is a dead issue. It has always seemed like a fool’s errand to think that elections could be truly cleaned up by limiting spending . People who wished to purchased politicians would always find a way to do so. Limiting contributions helped stem one small stream of spending, but I think it’s safe to say that it did little to restore anyone’s faith in democracy in the U.S. of A.

So, maybe we need to get a little creative. Fortunately, the nice folks over at Slate are all of it. If you can’t limit campaign spending because, hey, free speech and all, then maybe you take a step back and eliminate the problem at the source: If no one has enough wealth to buy politicians, then campaign spending isn’t a problem! I adore modest proposals of this sort, but I am unconvinced the voting public will go for it. And even if they do, it seems unlikely the folks who own the politicians will allow it. A man can dream, though. A man can dream.

* Ah, Citizens United, I do adore you. Corporations are people and money is free speech. You don’t hear a lot of people say it, but if spending money is exactly equal to free speech, then I don’t see how you can avoid this principle:

“If it’s legal to ask for it, then it’s legal to buy it.”

Obviously, that makes bribery legal. If it’s legal to ask your congressperson to do something, then it’s legal to pay them to do it. That seems to be the primary takeaway from Citizens United, after all. What about prostitution? If it’s legal to ask someone to have sex with you (and I do recommend asking), then I suspect it’s legal to pay them to do so. There’s plenty more mischief to be had with this formulation. Citizens United is a wonderful cautionary tale of what happens when one twists facts and logic to support a desired conclusion**. A certain wing of the Supreme Court wanted to ensure that corporate money would have more influence over elections than voters, and, in order to do so, they had jump through some logical hoops, claiming that corporations are people (they’re not) and that money is speech (it isn’t).  The court didn’t have the foresight to state that this decision was a one-time deal and shouldn’t be cited as precedent as they did with Bush v. Gore, but I hope they will soon regret it. This could be fun.

** Roe v. Wade had some of the same properties, albeit for a conclusion that I support.

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