Court Grants Corporations Power to Think For Us

David Beal

When Obama boldly chastised the Supreme Court in his Jan. 27 State of the Union address, it provided a breath of fresh air that the U.S. desperately needed.  If the Court makes an incorrect decision, they shouldn’t be immune to criticism. They should be held accountable.

On Jan. 21, the Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations should have extended free speech rights.  Free speech…sounds good, right?  Wrong.  According to the Court, this kind of free speech means unlimited independent political spending for corporations.

“Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”

This majority opinion contains false logic.  A corporation is simply not the same as a person.  Corporations now have more free speech than us human beings; they have the ability to spend their super-human wealth to influence our political system in unprecedented ways.  The decision has pushed open the floodgates even more for legalized bribery in the political sphere.

Speaking of precedents, this decision overturned two of them.  The justices referenced the spirited dissents in these two previous cases (one in 1990 and one in 2003) as a justification for the current decision.  If spirited dissents can suddenly negate important Court decisions, our country would never progress.  Precedents should only be overturned if the country’s circumstances have drastically changed, which they haven’t.

“When government seeks to use its full power. . .to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought.  This is unlawful,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”

Perhaps Kennedy meant to say that “the First Amendment confirms the freedom of corporations to think for us.”  Corporations have intelligent, manipulative marketing strategies that often target young people.  As students who are approaching voting age, the Court’s decision especially affects us.

Everyone knows the enormous influence of McDonald’s commercials on TV; they sustain the company.  Imagine when McDonald’s will use these commercials to “out-campaign” a candidate who wants to change the American food system.  A candidate won’t win through his or her merits, but rather through how much he or she fits with a corporation’s profit-motives, and subsequently, how many political ads this corporation puts on TV for him or her.  Politicians will represent the highest-bidding industry instead of flesh-and-blood human beings like you and me.

“This has got to be a wakeup call to every citizen that they cannot allow the big corporations to call the shots on these elections,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat.

Since corporations have practically raised our generation as ad-consuming robots, our voting independence is at stake.  We have lots of work to do.  Unless we start to think independently and research candidates on our own, we will reinforce the corporations’ goal – to profit by brainwashing us to passively accept marketing.  If we’re not at voting age yet, we need to train ourselves to reject the theatrics of political ad campaigns.  If we don’t act now, U.S. democracy will be severely weakened.