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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Towards the Gilded Age

I had intended, of course, to say something about the outcome in Massachusetts, which, though in the end rather close, has already turned out to be a decisive event in our current political struggles by unquestionably putting the momentum onto the Republican side. Twelve months too late, the President is now trying to pull populist anger to his side, but since he will now be unable to get any meaningful corporate reform through Congress, he is very unlikely to be successful. (Yesterday Paul Krugman, whom as you know I regard as one of my few allies, called upon the House of Representatives to pass the Senate health bill. Good luck, Paul--I don't think it's going to happen.) I had already predicted that younger voters would determine the outcome in Massachusetts (as they had in the last presidential election) and I was right: they gave the Republicans the election by staying home. Only about 20% of them voted (and those went heavily for Coakley), as opposed to more than half of older voters. Yet the point of this particular blog is above all to go beyond the day's events by putting them in historical perspective, and in that sense, the Supreme Court's decision on campaign financing dwarfs the significance of that particular special election. Other decisions on subjects like abortion and gay rights have also swept away long-standing precedents (mostly in state laws), but in one sense, as others have noted, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commmission can only be compared to Dred Scott. That earlier decision overruled various laws--the Compromise of 1850, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and even the pre-Constitutional Northwest Ordinance, going back over seventy years. This one goes back even further, undoing a critical principle of the Progressive Era--and therein lies the heart of the matter.

The Progressive era, which lasted in effect roughly from 1901 until 1917 or so, was a non-partisan experiment in reform designed to mitigate the effects of the industrial and commercial revolutions and broaden liberties. Leading Progressives included both Republicans and Democrats, including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Their achievements included the implementation of the Sherman Antitrust Act under TR, the Federal Reserve Board under Wilson, and constitutional amendments establishing the vote for women and the income tax. (In one of the great untold stories of American history--one very deserving of a long book--they also included an amendment to ban child labor that passed the Congress but was never ratified by the states.) They also included numerous reforms to improve (as Progressives saw it) the democratic process, including direct primaries (for both state offices and, in some states, for the nomination of Presidential candidates), recall elections, and referendums. Last, but hardly least, under Theodore Roosevelt the Congress passed a law forbidding corporations from contributing directly to political campaigns. All of this came to a crashing halt in the wake of the First World War, but various ideas developed during that era became, after the economic collapse of 1929-32, a big part of the basis for the New Deal--as I learned in my youth from various GI historians like the great Richard Hofstadter and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Large elements of the Republican Party were never reconciled to the New Deal. Those elements, interestingly enough, did not manage even to nominate a Presidential candidate from 1933 through 1963--neither Landon nor Willkie nor Dewey nor Eisenhower or Nixon were diehard free-marketeers. When Goldwater was elected his crushing defeat proved that the United States had come to accept the New Deal consensus. That consensus, however, took a double hit from the civil rights acts of 1964-5 (which alienated the white south) and the Vietnam War (which split the Democratic Party), from which it has never recovered. Meanwhile, conservatism steadily gained ground within the Republican Party, culminating in the nomination and election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Conservatives took a further step forward when George H. W. Bush was punished for his apostasy on taxes in the 1992 election. That, however, is politics: today I want to focus policy.

Conservative Republicans, with plenty of help from Democrats, have been hard at work since 1980 undoing not only the New Deal itself, but the social and economic structure that gave birth to it. The primary electoral muscle of the Democratic coalition came from unions, and union power was largely broken by the long recession under Reagan and the beginning of the de-industrialization of America, as well as by the movement of numerous industries into the un-unionized South. (Those same industries have now moved further south, out of the United States altogether.) Reagan also put a huge dent into the progressive taxation system that had funded the federal government since the Depression, cutting high bracket income taxes while raising the lower-bracket payroll taxes (and putting the proceeds into general revenues, as I pointed out here back in 2005.) Deregulation of S & Ls was followed under Bill Clinton (who restored some fiscal responsibility but did nothing else to fight the ongoing trend) by the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the resultant creation of huge investment banks fueled by depositors' money and credit cards.

All this made money more and more important in politics, far more important than either Republican or Democratic ideology. That is why, since the 1960s, no Democratic President has been able to put through a serious liberal reform. Democrats (at least in bluer states) talk a good game at election time, and sometimes put through legislation that looks like change, but a closer reading always reveals the work of lobbyists at play. When Bill Clinton threatened actually to reverse the decline of the government's role during his first year in office with health care reform, Boomer Republicans (led by Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich) announced that he could not possibly be allowed to succeed and organized all-out opposition, aided by corporate allies. The same thing has happened during the last year. The increasing role of money has two related consequences: it not only insures corporate influence, but discredits the whole process. It was extremely difficult even for a lifelong Democrat like myself to swallow the compromises necessary to get the health care bill through the Senate. The Medicaid concession to the state of Nebraska was a national disgrace, as was the failure to repeal the anti-trust exemption for the health care industry. (How can anyone believe that exchanges will increase competition when the anti-trust laws do not apply?) I'm not surprised that Massachusetts voters were not impressed.

Now the Republicans have had to cope with one big problem: their policies are bad for America and bad for the American people. They have increased the gap between rich and poor and stripped working people of fundamental protections. Health care is becoming less and less affordable. Millions have fallen to predatory lending. Worst of all, economic de-regulation has brought back the frequent, devastating boom-bust cycles of the late nineteenth century. All this has led to periodic Republican setbacks at the polls, most notably in 2006 and 2008. (We must keep in mind that we are not fighting today over ideological or aesthetic preferences about the distribution of income in America: we are learning again that allowing rich people to keep too much money simply does not work for anyone but them.) They managed to moderate their effects, however, by packing the least democratic part of our system, the courts.

As James MacGregor Burns made clear in Packing the Cout, which I reviewed here some months ago, judicial activism was not an invention of the Warren Court, but has played a huge role in our history since the beginning of the Republic. The Warren Court, which almost for the first time deployed its power on behalf of minority rights, was exceptional only because it favored the Left. During the Progressive Era and New Deal the courts had thrown out literally dozens of regulatory measures, concluding, for instance, that state minimum wage laws were unconstitutional. And on no issue have Republican activists been more single-minded than bending the judiciary to their needs. They have worked at all levels, organizing the Federalist Society, for instance, to recruit young candidates. Until 2000, countervailing factors ensured that even Republican Presidents would veer from ideological orthodoxy in their appointments occasionally, as Ronald Reagan did to appoint the first female justice and George H. W. Bush did to pick the estimable David Souter. But those days are over. During the last twenty years, Republican appointments have been far more ideologically committed and considerably younger and healthier than Democratic ones. Three of the four Boomers on the Court are now Republicans, and Sonia Sotomayor, the Democratic choice, is a diabetic. This strategy first paid a gigantic dividend in the legal coup d'etat of 2000, when a 5-4 Republican majority disclaimed any interest in determining the actual wishes of Florida voters and gave the Presidency to George W. Bush. (Al Gore's ineptitude was also largely to blame, since he never even tried to insist on the full statewide recount which later studies showed would have given him the election.)

The Progressive era, one might argue, had limited impact itself, but put machinery in place to make the New Deal possible. This week the Supreme Court took apart a critical piece of that machinery by using Citizens United to outlaw any restrictions on corporate campaign spending in the name of free speech. Justice Kennedy's emphasis on "free speech" in his majority opinion, in which he professes devotion to that principle that would rival that of my own hero Hugo Black, is quite Orwellian. Here is how he explained the decision of the court not to decide in favor of Citizens United on relatively narrow grounds--as it easily could have done--but instead to eliminate a centuries-old reform.

1. Because the question whether §441b applies to Hillary cannot be resolved on other, narrower grounds without chilling political speech, this Court must consider the continuing effect of the speech suppres-sion upheld in Austin. Pp. 5–20.
(a) Citizen United’s narrower arguments—that Hillary is not an “electioneering communication” covered by §441b because it is not“publicly distributed” under 11 CFR §100.29(a)(2); that §441b maynot be applied to Hillary under Federal Election Comm’n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 551 U. S. 449 (WRTL), which found §441b uncon-stitutional as applied to speech that was not “express advocacy or its functional equivalent,” id., at 481 (opinion of ROBERTS, C. J.), determining that a communication “is the functional equivalent of express advocacy only if [it] is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate,” id., at 469–470; that §441b should be invalidated as applied to movies shown through video-on-demand because this delivery system has alower risk of distorting the political process than do television ads;and that there should be an exception to §441b’s ban for nonprofitcorporate political speech funded overwhelming by individuals—arenot sustainable under a fair reading of the statute. Pp. 5–12.
(b)Thus, this case cannot be resolved on a narrower ground without chilling political speech, speech that is central to the First Amendment’s meaning and purpose. Citizens United did not waive this challenge to Austin when it stipulated to dismissing the facial challenge below, since (1) even if such a challenge could be waived, this Court may reconsider Austin and §441b’s facial validity here be-cause the District Court “passed upon” the issue, Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 513 U. S. 374, 379; (2) throughoutthe litigation, Citizens United has asserted a claim that the FEC hasviolated its right to free speech; and (3) the parties cannot enter intoa stipulation that prevents the Court from considering remedies nec-essary to resolve a claim that has been preserved. Because Citizen United’s narrower arguments are not sustainable, this Court must, in an exercise of its judicial responsibility, consider §441b’s facial valid-ity. Any other course would prolong the substantial, nationwide chilling effect caused by §441b’s corporate expenditure ban. This conclusion is further supported by the following: (1) the uncertainty caused by the Government’s litigating position; (2) substantial time would be required to clarify §441b’s application on the points raised by the Government’s position in order to avoid any chilling effect caused by an improper interpretation; and (3) because speech itself is of primary importance to the integrity of the election process, anyspeech arguably within the reach of rules created for regulating political speech is chilled. The regulatory scheme at issue may not be aprior restraint in the strict sense. However, given its complexity and the deference courts show to administrative determinations, a speaker wishing to avoid criminal liability threats and the heavycosts of defending against FEC enforcement must ask a governmental agency for prior permission to speak. The restrictions thus function as the equivalent of a prior restraint, giving the FEC power analogous to the type of government practices that the First Amendment was drawn to prohibit. The ongoing chill on speech makes it necessary to invoke the earlier precedents that a statute that chills speech can and must be invalidated where its facial invalidity has been demonstrated. Pp. 12–20.
2. Austin is overruled, and thus provides no basis for allowing the Government to limit corporate independent expenditures. Hence, §441b’s restrictions on such expenditures are invalid and cannot be applied to Hillary. Given this conclusion, the part of McConnell that upheld BCRA §203’s extension of §441b’s restrictions on independent corporate expenditures is also overruled. Pp. 20–51.

Now one would think, reading this outraged language, that existing law forbade the production or distribution of a scurrilous documentary like Hillary (whom readers will remember that I did not support myself) at all. Of course it doesn't. Political speech was free, or almost free, when the first amendment was passed, in two different ways: not only did the law now protect it, but the production and distribution of written materials (the only ones then available) was extremely cheap. In the early nineteenth century, yours truly might have started and turned out a weekly broadsheet almost as easily as I now turn out this blog. The point is not whether material like Hillary can be produced--of course it can, although it testifies to the decline of American political discourse in the last half century--the point is who will have the money to advertise it and broadcast it on cable television. Just as Anatole France remarked that the law impartially forbade both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges, the law now impartially allows David Kaiser, the heads of Citibank and Goldman Sachs, and Glenn Beck to make their views available on television to audiences of millions. The problem is that only three of them will be able to do so. The reformers of the 1900-80 era did not need rocket science to figure out that increasingly expensive modern forms of communication would obviously give incredible advantages to the rich and powerful and thus had to be regulated to give ordinary citizens a chance to be heard. A 5-4 Supreme Court majority has now thrown out a century of tradition and returned us to a form of political Darwinism (see my earlier posts on social Darwinism several years ago, easily located by a search at the top of the page.)

The current crisis in American life, I have been saying here now for five years, will lead either to a kind of New Deal revival or to a return to the Gilded Age. Karl Rove understands this and cited William McKinley as his political hero. The court just brought us immensely closer to a return to McKinley's age.

Those like me who never have and never will abandon the New Deal principles they learned in their youth inevitably mourn the likely eclipse, for the rest of our lifetimes, of those principles. But once again my training as a European historian at least enables me to say that things could be much, much worse. Although the Republicans have frequently bent the law (most notably in 2000 and again this week), they have successfully undid the work of our parents and grandparents mainly through legal means. There is no Fascist movement or dictatorship on the horizon (although one could still emerge.) It was the America of the Gilded age to which my paternal grandfather came around 1900, making my own life possible. The liberal tradition will survive, even if will only be revived years after the Boom generation has passed from the scene. (I do not exclude the possibility that my own side might still prevail even in this crisis, but it does not look at all likely.) If the Founding Fathers managed to design a system that can preserve essential liberties and survive even severe swings to the right and left, they will still deserve our thanks.


Dan Vukmanich said...

The Party that now controls the White House, the Congress, the Senate, the Unions, National Public Radio, National Endowment for the Arts, and public education is complaining that they don't have the means to promote their Statist ideology.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kaiser:
I often wonder, after reading your missives, whether you think that voters and their expressed will though elections, such as in Massachusetts have any weight at all?

Or should we simply be sheep and let so called knowledgables like Krugman arrange our life for us?
I had left you comments last week prior to election in an attempt to signal to you that Martha Coakley stood no chance at all. Seems you paid no attention to that and you are not paying attention to voter expressed wishes. Why is that?

Is your own opinion the only right and correct one and no one else's matter at all?

Let me remind you again of the very prophetic and wise words uttered two centuries ago by a man I admire immensely:

'It is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
Thomas Jefferson

People of Massachusetts want SMALLER GOVERNMENT and they voted to that effect.
They do not care for government to be arranging and re-arranging their life. They voted to that effect.

So will the voters in other states in november.

After November, 2010, elections, democrats will have less senators they have now.

Then they, democrats, might learn to do and stay true to that what their current president campaigned on and for, such as: TRANSPARENCY - doesn't include shaddy deals with Nelson and unions for passing ObamaCare, BIPARTISANSHIP - by sticking to ONLY DEMOCRAT-ic way or highway approach and so on. Perhaps more would be done without arrogance displayed by the democrats since they took office in January, 2009.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Kaiser:

You can read here:


about HARVARD student's who were working diligently and succeeded to help Sen. Scott Brown get elected.

B r a v o !!!!

Anonymous said...

I guess it's short-sightedness that makes people say they want less government. Rather than working within the government system to improve its obvious faults, they would rather it go away altogether and let the rich and their corporations run things. After all, corporations ARE more efficient than government, never mind that they, unlike a democratic government, can hide what they are really doing until you wake up one morning and discover that you are now living in indentured servitude to the people who keep score in life by how much money they make.

I feel sorry for all the small business people who think anything that helps the big guys will help them. No, the big guys will simply swallow everything you built whole and remove it from competition with them. Your life's work just becomes another forgotten idea or service that once was of value to society. But that's ok. You'll get your money today and if you're lucky, retire and die before you outlive the windfall; never mind that your children and grandchildren will be nothing more than slaves to all the new order of robber barons, kings, and theocrats!

Anonymous said...

The question is whether the government or corporations HAVE BEEN HIDING what is happening with the ObamaCare?
What do you think?

If the Rasmussen Poll is telling us that 58% oppose the bill before congress and 61% say it's time for ObamaCare to be dropped and the democrats are vehemently STILL blindly pushing for it,should one wish the government go away and leave people alone or "WORK" within the government that CLEARLY doesn't listen to people as you propose?

Seems the people of Massachusetts have reached the conclusion that the government should leave them alone. The message was sent resoundingly clear,

According to most recent comments from Washington it seems that the government has not gotten the message of the people of Massachusets yet.

I guess more of the same message will be sent from other voters in November, 2010.

David Kaiser said...

I'll answer that last comment with some polling data:

"Democrats may be able to draw on residual support for major elements of the health overhaul, a new poll by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation suggested.

"More than 60% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to support healthcare legislation if it expanded the Medicaid program for the poor, helped seniors on Medicare buy prescription drugs or guaranteed that all Americans could get insurance -- even if they are sick.

"More than 70% said they would back a bill that included tax credits for small businesses that provide their workers with health benefits.

"Many people do not realize those proposals are in the Democratic healthcare legislation, however. And the overall bills remain very unpopular. Just 42% of Americans say they believe the country would be better off if Congress passed "healthcare reform," down from 59% about a year ago, the Kaiser survey found."

The propaganda campaign of which you are so proud to be part has completely misled the majority of the country about what is in the bill. Take heart, such campaigns will be even easier to run with unlimited corporate support.

Dan Vukmanich said...

Why does the well-proven ideology of Statism have such a difficult time competing in the marketplace of ideas, especially now, after 8 years of George W. Bush?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kaiser:

I am so glad that you quoted Keiser Foundation figures and not Rasmussen;s or Gallups. Let alone that you bothered to examine the polling figures after the Massachusetts Senatorial elections.

Gallup Poll on January, 22,2010:

In U.S., Majority Favors Suspending Work on Healthcare Bill


Since you quoted Keiser, let me quote Keiser;s findings from January 22, 2010, poll:

The Post reports, "Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters. … Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown's supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so." However, the poll found that 68 percent of voters in Tuesday's election support Massachusetts' universal health-care plan, which was enacted several years ago (Balz and Cohen, 1/22).

You can read the rest at:

It is quite clear, and unambiguous, that Massachusetts voters rejected the democratic and left wing propaganda that the giveaway to Nebraska and unions and who knows whom else in the proposed ObamaCare bill would be good and beneficial for then. Can we agree on that at least?

As for myself, I work in healthcare and deal with Medicare and Medicaid on a daily basis and am quite familiar how they work now and how they are supposed to work if ObamaCare were to pass.
It is clear propaganda that the people with existing own insurance would be at the same level or even better with the passage of the ObamaCare, Nothing can be further from the truth.

Massachusetts voters, among the most knowledgable voters in the Union, sniffed the bait and switch that ObamaCare was and rejected it.

They elected the senator whose job and primary responsibility is to represent them and their agenda. Not anyone else. Or anyone else's agenda.
Hopefully, voters in the other states would take that from this election and toss anyone who doesn't represent them and represents someone else out.
Sen. Nelson being the prime candidate.

Plain and simple.

Now the democratic propaganda is trying to spin Scott Brown's win as the rejection by Massachusetts voters of ObamaCare that doesn't contain the Public Option . Nothing could be further from the truth and boarders on gebelsian propaganda by moveon.org and similar outfits. The same people that had Martha Coakley leading Scott Brown by 9 points on January 10, 2010.

Furthermore, since I don't want to cite the whole article here, please read:

End of O's cowardly lyin' at:


It would explain quite eloquently the view of the people who are not drinking cool-aid anymore,

It is quite clear and obvious that the emperor has no clothes.

Anonymous said...

Here excerpts from tomorrows NY Times op-ed piece:
Democrats, Get Down to Business

Published: January 24, 2010

SCOTT BROWN’S victory last week in the Massachusetts Senate race, following the Republican gubernatorial triumphs in New Jersey and Virginia, marked the third time in three months that the Democratic Party has lost the support and trust of independent voters.

The message these voters sent was clear. With one out of five Americans unemployed or underemployed, President Obama and the Democratic Party need to shift attention away from health care and toward a bold effort to create jobs, improve the economy and rein in the size of government.

Here are four simple steps we must take immediately to put us, and the nation, on a better course:

First, cut taxes for businesses — big and small — and find innovative ways to get Americans back to work. We can start by giving any companies that are less than five years old an exemption from payroll taxes for six months; extending the current capital gains and dividend tax rates through 2012; giving permanent tax credits for businesses that invest in research and development; and reducing the top corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent.

America’s primary job-creating machine — the private sector — needs to be rejuvenated. Democrats must lead now on job creation or risk forfeiting Congressional majorities in November.

Second, we should pass a more focused health reform bill that restructures current health care costs before spending more, prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, enacts responsible reform on malpractice suits and extends health coverage to all children. And we must allow states to have input into the expansion of health coverage, as they will have to pay for much of the reform themselves.

This program isn’t all that Democrats wanted from health care reform right now, but it’s what the country wants. And it’s what the country can afford.

Third, we should reform our immigration policy to ensure that those who contribute to our economy, especially foreign math and science graduates of American universities, have a clear path to citizenship.

Finally, we need to address budget deficits now rather than waiting for some ideal future economic situation. It’s a good sign that the Obama administration is following the advice of Senators Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Evan Bayh of Indiana and other Democratic fiscal pragmatists who embrace the idea of a bipartisan commission to recommend spending cuts to rein in deficit growth. But we must be sure that the administration and Congress heed the commission’s advice.

By focusing on job creation and deficit reduction, we can expand our economy and balance the budget. We’ve done it before: When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he inherited a record fiscal deficit after years of Republicans in the White House. After eight years in office (and 22 million jobs created), President Clinton had balanced the budget and left his successor with a surplus. This can be done again.

To be sure, President Obama has achieved some important successes. His policies prevented the financial system from collapsing, saved America’s auto industry from extinction and avoided a depression. But that extreme crisis is over — what our country needs now is better, not more, government.

A Democratic Party refocused on revitalizing our economy, protecting the United States from terrorism and re-establishing itself as the party for the middle class is what Americans are demanding. If we do this, victory at the polling booths will take care of itself.

The whole op-ed can be found at the following web link:


Ronit said...

This post sparked some discussion on ephblog

Rob Zacny said...

It's difficult to know what is the most depressing aspect of History Unfolding: that each of your posts makes a strong case that the world is going to hell, or that most of the comments are from rabid anti-intellectuals and extremists.

It surprises me not at all that these people with the courage of their convictions are unwilling to leave their names. Perhaps they are guarding against the day Mr. Obama raises his red flag of revolution and asks liberal bloggers for "the list".

At any rate, I must say the most obnoxious thing about the results from Massachusetts, where I live, is how that ambivalent verdict has been twisted into an unambiguous rejection by the entire country of the president, health care, and government in general.

Left out of this analysis is the demoralizing effect that Obama's first year had on his liberal supporters, like myself, who found his leadership lacking on stimulus, financial reform, health care, and Afghanistan. Liberal disgust might not be that important a factor nationally, but in a state like Massachusetts it matters a great deal. Populist anger against the administration might not burn so brightly had it made an effort to provide homeowners and the unemployed with the same assistance that he provided the markets.

I am probably reading too much of myself into the election results (ironically, the very thing I am complaining about!). Still, it's going way too far to say Brown's victory over Coakley is an affirmation of conservative ideology. It was, in several senses of the phrase, a special election.

Anonymous said...


if Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts is so insignificant as you are trying to represent why is the focus of the State of the Unon address shifting from the all important ObamaCare to JOBS and ECONOMY?

Could it possibly be that someone has finally convinced the democrats that "IT'S THE JOBS STUPID"?

Are you saying that Scott Brown's victory had nothing to do with such shift of the government's priorities?

Anonymous said...

"Could it possibly be that someone has finally convinced the democrats that "IT'S THE JOBS STUPID"?"

What he see is Obama making some gestures in response to the (slowly) dawning realization that he pretty much squandered his first year in office. But they're gestures only. Were he to do something **serious** -- a good start would be ejecting Geithner & Summers -- then I'd believe that Obama's actually changing course.

However.... The NY Times reports that Obama's going to announce a "spending freeze". This is jaw-droppingly idiotic economically and politically. I'm not inclined to give Obama or the Dems the benefit of the doubt any longer. I'll be voting Green from now on, I think. And I don't see what difference it makes, anyway: This country stopped being a republic years ago. It's an oligarchy, a banana republic.
-- sglover

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kaiser:

according to today's Rasmussen's poll on the state of the union address' points, here's the result that you might find interesting:

The president asked Congress to counter the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance. However, public reaction is mixed: 26% agree with the decision, 34% oppose it, and 41% are not sure. Sixty-five percent (65%) also say corporations and unions should be allowed to buy ads to let people know how politicians voted on issues.

You can find the entire poll here:


Anonymous said...

Mr. Kaiser:

given below is the opinion of 1st amendment lawyer Floyd Abrahms, with whom I agree, whose opinion runs contrary to yours from a WSJ article:

Although Citizens United wasn't Mr. Abrams's case, "I took a special pleasure . . . in this ruling," he tells me over drinks following the panel. That's because it overturned a 2003 decision in a case he lost, McConnell v. FEC, in which a 5-4 majority upheld provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, including one that criminalized corporate funding of "electioneering communication" within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. Seven years later, with Justice Samuel Alito in the majority, the court reversed that holding.

The First Amendment is the lifeblood of the press. Yet most newspapers—the one you are reading is a notable exception—take an editorial position similar to that of the Times. Why? "I think that two things are at work," Mr. Abrams says. "One is that there are an awful lot of journalists that do not recognize that they work for
corporations. . . .

"A second is an ideological one. I think that there is a way of viewing this decision which . . . looks not at whether the First Amendment was vindicated but whether what is simply referred to as, quote, democracy, unquote, was vindicated. My view is, we live in a world in which the word 'democracy' is debatable . . . It is not a word which should determine interpretation of a constitution and a Bill of Rights, which is at its core a legal document as well as an affirming statement of individual freedom," he says. "Justice Potter Stewart . . . warned against giving up the protections of the First Amendment in the name of its values. . . . The values matter, the values are real, but we protect the values by protecting the First Amendment."

A third factor surely is that McCain-Feingold exempted media corporations from its strictures against electioneering. Under this regime, free speech was not a constitutional right but a privilege granted by Congress to companies like those that own the Times and the Journal, but denied to other businesses, labor unions and nonprofit advocacy corporations.

The whole article can be seen at:

Anonymous said...

Seems that Justice Thomas disagrees with the author of the blog.

“I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company,” Justice Thomas said. “These are corporations.”

The part of the McCain-Feingold law struck down in Citizens United contained an exemption for news reports, commentaries and editorials. But Justice Thomas said that reflected a legislative choice rather than a constitutional principle.

He added that the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907.

“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. “Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as “some sort of beatific action.” >/b>

Justice Thomas said the First Amendment’s protections applied regardless of how people chose to assemble to participate in the political process.

>b>“If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,”
he said. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association.”

More on Justice Thomas' comments can be fount here:


David Kaiser said...

Anonymous (the last one) wrote:

"Seems that Justice Thomas disagrees with the author of the blog."

I'm sure regular readers here are reeling from that particular shock.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Kaiser:

>> Here is how he explained the
>> decision of the court not to
>> decide in favor of Citizens
>> United on relatively narrow
>> grounds--as it easily could
>> have done--but instead to
>> eliminate a centuries-old
>> reform.

My understanding was that the Supre Court's decision dealth with the law passed in 2002?

Where did "centuries-old reform" assertion come from?

Have I missed something?

Please clarify, if you can.

Anonymous said...

Seems that the author has a point. The voters do think that we are moving more towards the guilded age.

Contrary to President Obama's promises, voters say special interests have more influence on the political process now than they did a year ago, according to a new poll.

The poll, paid for by groups looking to curb the Supreme Court's recent campaign finance ruling, found that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say special interests have increased their influence since the president took office, and they say Mr. Obama has not done enough to fight back.

I guess the Supreme Court is not at fault here - at least according
to voters.

The rest of the story can be found at http://washingtontimes.com/news/

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Kaiser,
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& a radio interview:


please take the time to review this. It falls exactly in line of what you are talking about, where are country is headed. WE personally find NO rhyme or reason, other then its the DEVIL rising !
We hope to hear from you soon!




Anonymous said...

Now the Republicans have had to cope with one big problem: their policies are bad for America and bad for the American people.

The policies which got Americans where they are today are, most unfortunately, those long shared by both parties.

Sad but true.
Gerald Meaders

Bozon said...

I hate to be greedy on someone else's blog site, but re Justice Thomas' views, he scarcely ever saw an issue that did not, somehow, need 'closer judicial scrutiny'.

Some Americans may say that is a good thing; some of us lawyers may wonder.

All the best,
Gerald Meaders

Bozon said...

If I may be forgiven for writing too much,isn't it less a question of 'funds being progressively made more available to suggestible political parties', than of consequences of politically intended structural weaknesses of a long established liberal system of governance lacking sufficient internal integrity and focus to flourish in an adverse globalized political environment?

Those who long and valiantly clamored, in vain, for an industrial policy, witnin that weak system, are now seeing their warnings falling on largely uncomprehending ears.

All the best,
Gerald Meaders

Bozon said...

"Although the Republicans have frequently bent the law (most notably in 2000 and again this week), they have successfully undid the work of our parents and grandparents mainly through legal means."

Today, May 25, 2010, in the new York Times, an article re drastic state and local government reforms in several states; including elimination of counties, consolidation of local govs, etc. (Question: Why not fewer states? Say, 5?)

The motives and ends, of these often 'conservative', tea, or 'republican', political players can be questioned, in that they have little to put in its place, and think mainly of 'less is best', rather than a more qualitative idiom.

But, 'democrats' should also seriously consider whether they are not, also, at a point (geopolitically) where serious domestic political reform, consolidation at both state and local levels, would be in their best interests, too; a leaner, perhaps meaner, 'welfare' state, or a leaner and meaner fascist one, but leaner and meaner seems on the cards either way, and very, very long overdue, whether either likes it, or not.

All the best,
Gerald Meaders

Bozon said...


Krugman's May 24 article, "the old enemies", points out who the most obvious adversaries of reforms/consolidations, even minor ones, would be: the big (largely foreign) interests now lying mostly behind the Republican party, large MNCs, and foreigners.

But, I would point out,also partially infesting the Democratic penthouse as well; (and not the grass roots red neck, tea drinkers, or union members, of either).

If some irascible 'conservatives' say 'eliminate governments', say, some state governments, say twenty of them or more, say forty, and many thousands of local ones, by referendum; I say, bring it on, long, long overdue; but not for the 'no government' reasons they espouse.

All the best,

Bozon said...

I hate to put this in print, but it goes almost without saying that a first step, federally, in such directions, were the exec branch so inclined, would be 'repacking' somewhat (in Roosevelt's sense) the SC.

Still, such reforms would also have to start as so called 'grass roots' initiatives.

Further, what state political apparati would voluntarily decide to consolidate with 5 or 10 others?

Yet, those are the kind of changes needed, to begin to set right the stultifera navis.

all the best,

Bozon said...

In case anyone wonders why I suggest such thoroughgoing reforms and consolidations, to state and local governments, among other things; either to head off or bring on another gilded age; I offer the late Robert S. Lorch's book State and Local Politics: The Great Entanglement, as some evidence of reasons why the USA needs state and local government reform.

I only have the first edition, where perhaps he candycoated less his later views. Although dated, few larger details of his account have changed much. It is a great introduction, probably even in later editions, to a very sorry situation.

Especially the gray panels at the beginnings of chapters are worth the price alone. 1 and 3 are perhaps my favorites, but all should be read.

All the best,