The Universal Notebook: The (corporate) state of the union

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“For 12 years this nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government. The nation looked to government but the government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent.”

No, this is not me, your friendly local liberal loudmouth, inveighing as usual against the unregulated Bush years and the rise of the tea party mob; it’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt indicting the Republican administrations of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

FDR’s Oct. 31, 1936, speech at Madison Square Garden on the eve of his first re-election is making the progressive rounds these days for its uncanny relevance and currency.

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace – business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering,” FDR said. “They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

A lot of us on the left wish President Obama would take off the kid gloves of bipartisan compromise and conciliation and come out fighting against the do-nothing, just-say-no obstructionists of today’s GOP before they hand the country back over to the forces of self-interest.

At the very least, Obama took a swipe at the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address last week for its barefaced activist decision in Citizens United (see The Universal Notebook, Sept. 28, 2009) to allow corporations to pour unlimited amounts of money into U.S. elections.

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections,” the president said, looking down at the corporate stooges of the Roberts Court. “Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

The Roberts Court decision in Citizens United was wrong in every way. It was not what the law says. It was not what the Founding Fathers intended. It’s not what the American people want. And it’s not going to be good for America. A legal entity now has the same rights as a human being in this country.

“Under the majority’s view,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent, “I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech.”

Can you imagine?

“Madame Chairman, the Great Corporation of ExxonMobil, which proudly pumped $29 million into lobbying efforts in 2008 and 397 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, casts its 80,000 votes for the next President of the United States – Sarah Louise Palin!”

Sidebar Elements

The Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem’s personal look at the world around him.