The latest 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling lifting the overall limit on direct contributions to federal political campaigns is not the end of American democracy. But it is another step on the road towards oligarchy, rule by the very richest few, in America.
The legal limit on one donor’s contributions per federal election cycle remains at $5,200 per federal candidate, $32,400 per national party committee, $10,000 per state party committee, and $5,000 per political action committee.
But the Supreme Court in its McCutcheon decision announced on April 2, declared the overall limit on one donor’s political contributions of $123,200 per election cycle to be unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. So rich donors seeking to maximize their influence on Congress can now give to every federal candidate, and every national and state party committee of one or both political parties.
In its 2010 Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court, also by a vote of 5 to 4, distinguished independent expenditures from direct political contributions, thus freeing independent expenditures from any federal limits. So we were already in an era of unlimited political expenditures by the rich, as evidenced by the record levels of election spending in the 2012 election cycle.
The latest Supreme Court decision lifts one more restriction on how the rich can influence elections and candidates. And Justice Clarence Thomas made clear in his concurring decision in McCutcheon that he is ready to repeal all the limits on direct contributions to candidates and parties in federal elections.
The loosening of limits on the use of wealth to influence elections and government coincides with the loosening of the burdens of taxation on wealthy Americans. The so-called “fiscal cliff” deal negotiated by President Obama and Republican leaders in the last days of 2012 made permanent most of the so-called “Bush tax cuts” originally negotiated and enacted by President George W. Bush as temporary measures in response to the collapse of the internet bubble and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Those tax cuts are why Mitt Romney in 2012 reported a tax rate of only 15% on his enormous income when many middle income taxpayers pay a higher rate on their much more modest salaries. The practice of taxing income from capital at lower rates than income from labor has never made sense. And the Bush tax cuts, made permanent by President Obama, only aggravate the unfairness by extending the capital gains preference to dividends paid by corporations to shareholders. Of course that unfairness is sweet comfort to taxpayers who receive dividend income, which is paid disproportionately to those with the highest incomes.
A third step on the road to oligarchy will be the enactment of so-called immigration reform which, by giving amnesty to the millions of immigration law violators, will send a signal to even more millions of foreign workers to get themselves into the United States by any means legal or illegal. Competition from increased immigration is how business owners keep the wages of American workers low.
Maintaining a labor surplus of unemployed and underemployed American workers prevents those with jobs from obtaining higher wages, which increases business profits. See how the stock market hits record highs as U.S. wage levels stagnate under high levels of legal and illegal immigration. Which Americans benefit, and which suffer from this anomaly?
Enactment of voter ID laws places the burden on individual American citizens to prove their eligibility to vote by obtaining specific documents. This will discourage lower income citizens struggling to survive from expressing their opinion at the polls, which is one more way to enhance the power and influence of the economic elite. Instead, an adequately funded government should itself assume the burden of investigating any specific charges of voter fraud and obtaining the conviction of any illegal voter.
Together these four initiatives of the wealthiest Americans consolidate power in their hands, and reduce the influence of American citizens who are not wealthy over their government. Anyone see a pattern here?