It’s Well Past Time to FIX our Citizens United Problem


— by Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for President Bill Clinton

The Supreme Court, which hears oral arguments today and tomorrow on same-sex marriage, has become the nation’s de facto decider of social policy. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, whose monetary policy is pumping $83 billion into the economy every month to keep long-term interest rates down, has become the nation’s de facto decider of economic policy. And the Department of Defense, now in the twelfth year of an undeclared war on terror, has become the nation’s de facto decider of foreign policy. As politics becomes inundated with big money and paralyzed by partisanship, key government functions are being parceled out to entities having little or no accountability to the public, and whose decisions are far removed from public scrutiny. Future historians may well ask: What happened to American democracy?

Whatever issue you may be most concerned about — climate change, widening inequality, declining real median wages, rising poverty among the young, the soaring costs of healthcare, bailouts for Wall Street, the sprawling military-industrial-congressional complex, the morality brigade that wants to dictate who can marry and whether a woman has control over her body, a government captured by corporations and the wealthy — nothing can be done until we get big money out of politics and reclaim our democracy. It is the first step to all reform. It’s difficult, it’s frustrating, it’s not sexy — but it’s a necessity.

And where do we begin on this arduous task? How do we choose between getting behind a constitutional amendment to reverse “Citizen’s United,” or public financing of major federal and state elections, or requiring all media using public airwaves or cables to provide free advertising to candidates, or fighting against gerrymandering at the state level? What’s most important? All of it, and more. When I’m not spouting off about the problems of our economy and democracy I chair a citizen’s group called “Common Cause,” which is leading the charge on these issues nationally and in many states. At the very least, I urge you to join up and get involved. (I’ll provide you with the link in the next post, in a moment.) Complaining is easy, and it may be even therapeutic. Rolling up your sleeves and doing something about all this is much harder — but, in my view, the most important thing you can do as a citizen.

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