On Jan. 28, 2000, the Courier-Post published “Troubled by Florio’s take on ‘process,’" my response to former Gov. James Florio's commentary “Florio: Ideas, not bankroll will win Senate election,” which ran Dec. 7, 1999.
Back then, he wrote that “money is becoming more than a part of the (campaign) process. It is on the verge of becoming the process, and that’s troubling.” I wrote, “I can only question when he ceased noticing that money has already become the process for the legal representation finance system.”
Obviously, 17 years ago Florio envisioned Citizens United and the present decline of the U.S. from democracy into oligarchy.
Last year, former President Jimmy Carter declared that America had become a true oligarchy, in which a small number of rich people were permitted to purchase our political candidates and system, and that payback to those buyers might be expected. Carter’s declaration was widely reported yet basically went unchallenged — to the surprise and confusion of many, who then understood what it was because its existence is now undeniable.
And now, why is it that a majority of Americans are beating their heads against a wall trying and failing to implement gun-safety laws? It’s because the National Rifle Association, its bought-and-paid-for Congress members, and the moneyed gun-ammo-and-war-machine-manufacturing oligarchs and war-mongers repeatedly and automatically prevail in thwarting common-sense corrective measures — for bottom-line greed.
Same for oil barons; same for Big Pharma and “unaffordable” care proponents who have been made rich by selling knowingly addictive drugs that have led to heroin addiction. There’s no appetite for interest in curbing future sales of those addictive drugs en masse — for greed. And for-profit prisons expect to be fed a steady stream of captives — for greed.
Today, corporate lobbyists write our laws. We’ve plunged from the high plane where “knowledge is power” into a lowest-common denominator where “beliefs are power.” This is a state of “truthiness” that comes from the gut, without any need to be logical, intellectual or factual.
And America operates on “principles of privilege” that begin with the idea that privileged people don’t have to follow rules they set up. That unprivileged people aren’t as valuable. The privileged can control and decide what is relevant. Any breakdowns in the system are caused by the unprivileged, not the privileged.
And just who gets to be protected by legal immunity? Government officials are afforded total immunity; there’s qualified immunity, judicial immunity, even retroactive immunity! But the moneyless aren’t eligible — and so go directly to jail, not being able to afford quality court representation.
The most horrendous part is the demise of the rule of law, a legal principle that law should govern a nation, rather than the arbitrary decisions of individual officials.
There’s also an absence of checks and balances; a “bought” media; taxes allowed to be evaded and legally hidden in secret accounts; persecuted vs. protected whistle-blowers; certitude by moneyed individuals that they will never see the inside of a prison or lose a lawsuit; contract writers who legally embed loopholes and include “take it or else” clauses whereby participants are denied the right to sue by requiring that they go to arbitration up against arbiters of the corporation’s choosing; arrogant, too-big banks that take the money and run and gamble — then cry poor, forcing poor people to deal with unscrupulous payday lenders!
From what little is allowed to be known about the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty being pushed by President Barack Obama, implementation will guarantee that sovereign nations will be under the control of global corporate giants who will have the power to sue and override their rule of law. But I guess Obama doesn’t have a problem with that, seeing as how America no longer has a rule of law to protect.
How did all this happen? Because the distracted, the overworked, the overburdened, the Internet-hypnotized, the consumerism-afflicted, the indifferent, the burned-out, the snookered, the beaten-down, the gym-addicted, the multi-sports-child chauffeurs, the overwhelmed, the too-busy, the bystanders, etc., did not pay attention. And because those who should have said “no” to injustice, greed and Citizens United said and did nothing.
The writer lives in Glassboro.