22 Jan 2010
While many Americans were still scratching their heads and pondering what to do with the stunning Republican Party victory in the contest for the vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts, a little noticed bombshell came from the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 ruling, last Thursday the Court cleared the way for business and unions to spend as much as they wish on campaigns directly aimed at swaying presidential and congressional elections. A frustrated Obama still reeling from the loss of a filibuster proof majority in the senate lamented that the Supreme Court ruling was ''a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans''. Obama’s Health Insurance legislation has not only been watered down but even the adulterated version has an uncertain future.
The Supreme Court ruling may likely open the flood gates for lobbyists and special interest groups to completely hijack American democracy. In this type of environment, only the voice of money wins the day. Barely 24 hours after the Supreme Court pronounced its judgment, MSNBC conducted an online poll. As of the time of writing this article, over 37,000 people had responded and 85% were against the ruling.
It seems that the voices of the majority in America will continue to drown under the roaring waves of money. In an October 2009 article by Chris McGreal published in Guardian.co.uk on the Health Insurance debate in the US, he highlighted the role of money and lobbyists in the stalling of the Health Insurance bill. Permit me to lift these sentences from his article to make the point clearer “The industry [Insurance & pharmaceutical] and interest groups have spent $380m (£238m) in recent months influencing healthcare legislation through lobbying, advertising and in direct political contributions to members of Congress. The largest contribution, totalling close to $1.5m, has gone to the chairman of the senate committee drafting the new law”.
“Drug and insurance companies say they are merely seeking to educate politicians and the public. But with industry lobbyists swarming over Capitol Hill ‑ there are six registered healthcare lobbyists for every member of Congress ‑ a partner in the most powerful lobbying firm in Washington acknowledged that healthcare firms' money "has had a lot of influence" and that it is "morally suspect".
I am of the opinion that the type of ‘lobby’ enshrined in the American constitution by the founding fathers is certainly anything but what we are witnessing presently. Money is ‘legally’ corrupting American democracy and eroding its credibility especially in the eyes of poorer Americans.
Barack Obama is finding out that it will require more than he bargained for to push through his populist programs that are generally seen to favor ordinary Americans. I pity him because Corporate America will take advantage of the ‘favorable conditions’ to use its financial muscle to obstruct, derail or at best dilute those programs.
Njei Moses Timah