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Buying America one free speech at a time

In a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, on a 5-4 conservative vote, the court reversed more than 100 years of precedent and reached far beyond the case in review to declare that corporations and unions have the right of free speech by the use of money in political campaigns.

The court has made two assertions that fall so far beyond reason as to be incomprehensible; first, that corporations are individuals with the same inherent free speech rights as you and I; second, that money is speech.

Neither claim is valid.

The logic of the court in terms of the rights of corporations would allow GE to run for office, as a corporation, if extended to its logical conclusion.

Yet GE is only marginally an American company in the new world of internationalism. It conducts business across the globe and has investments and income far beyond the reaches of the U.S. tax code.

Therefore the interests of GE, as a corporation, are not even exclusively American interests…yet the Court would grant this corporation the rights of an individual American citizen.

But perhaps more dangerous is the argument advanced by the five Justices that money is speech. If money is speech, then you and I should simply withdraw from voting, because the corruption of the big banks now has far more free speech than you or I can ever attain. And Exxon has about as much free speech as 50 million of the rest of us.

The decision of the court has been soundly rejected by the American people according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Almost 80 percent of Americans disagree with the ruling, including broad majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

While our nation is currently too politicized to agree that the sun comes up every day, we virtually all agree that this ruling is wrong for the nation and wrong for our future.

But we should have known this court would rule this way.

While Americans were distracted by the usual abortion issues when Roberts and Alito were nominated to the court, the real issue of concern was seen by very few.

It was not a question of abortion. It was the issue of their voting records that evidenced a blind support for the strong against the weak, the powerful against the powerless.

In opposing both Roberts and Alito, Barack Obama pointed out this very concern. In the opposition to Roberts as Chief Justice Obama said Roberts “far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak.”

In a speech on the Senate floor in late 2008 Obama cited Alito’s habit of siding with big business and big government against plaintiffs and workers.

Obama was right.

If corporations have all the rights of voters, then their power is going to change American democracy into a corporate nation where individual voters matter little.

And if money is speech, than those with the most money are those with the most speech, meaning the American middle class can be silenced forever.

Sen. Schumer of New York is leading the Senate effort to construct a sound constitutional basis to reverse the recent Supreme Court decision in its effectiveness.

But it will not be easily accomplished because Washington Republicans, unlike their constitutients, see a political advantage in the ruling. They will not easily vote to save the nation.

Eighty percent of Americans reject the ruling by a court now owned by “Big Government” and “Big Business.” Write your congressmen and woman.

This is a battle for America.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.