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Is money allowed to cry 'fire' in a crowded theatre?

The US Supreme Court's recent call to let their Citizens United decision ride reinforces  a kind of Animal Farm persuasion that taints elections in this country: simply put, that all votes are equal but some are more equal than others. Take heart--billionaires will remain unfettered in their efforts to buy elections.

Those who defend Citizens United blinklessly assert that corporations are people, too, my friend--an argument so specious as to be worthy of drunks and defiant children. Who has yet to address the twisted irony about today's corporation--whose purpose is to manage personal liability (meaning, avoid personal culpability) for its members; and now they cling to the Bill of Rights? Not only do elite, moneyed interests want to have their cake--they want to inhale it as well.

If you have any doubt that corporations enable the abandonment of personal responsibility, you should read about the Wachovia money laundering scandal that no one remembers anymore--that not one official from the bank was even arrested doesn't improve anyone's chances of recollection.

Need a more recent reminder? Not one member of any financial institution that misled investors and spread toxic mortgage assets--leading to the 2008 economic meltdown--has been arrested.

Fast forward to 2010: the British Petroleum oil spill--no arrests. Oh, wait, the feds did recently file some fey obstruction of justice charge against a low ranking engineer for deleting text messages. It's an arrest certain to strike fear in the hearts of would-be polluters all over the world.

What to do? Many progressives are spreading the message about a constitutional amendment that would reverse Citizens United. It's a great idea, however, said amendment would have to pass through the congressional and statehouse machinery that is largely already owned by elite, moneyed interests.

The solution will require a de facto effort on the part of those who care for the common good. The challenge appears almost impossible: ignorance and apathy have joined forces to comprise the 40% of eligible voters who fail to show up at the polls come election time. We are failing to teach the 40% a civics-minded media literacy, the kind of knowledge informing each voter about his or her choices--that there is no obligation to support candidates for public office who trade their decision making for large, bundled campaign contributions. Ultimately they must learn (and it may come to the hard way) what is at stake for his or her quality of life and well being.

It's a goal comparable to Thomas Jefferson’s hope for an educated citizen--someone prepared for the tasks of self-government and encouraged “to judge for himself what would secure or endanger his freedom.”

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