I cannot, yet again, glimpse enough of the future. When this is printed, there will have been an election of some importance. How will it have gone? How could I know? I’m stuck back here at the end of last week.
It’s not that I want to know which candidates won so much as the overall pattern of wins. I want to know if Amazon’s money won.
And I don’t want to know whether Amazon’s money won merely on the grounds that I consider Amazon particularly evil. I’m sure Amazon is not that much eviler than any other corporation that’s tried to steer the politics of Seattle since the city was founded.
It’s just, you know, the whole Citizens United thing. I want to know how that’s working out for us.
The Supreme Court could have applied Citizens United v. FEC only to federal elections and left states to their own laws, but no. They had to go and affirm that they meant their decision for states and cities, too. Thanks a lot, Supreme Court.
Given that, I’m confused as to how a proposed $5,000 cap on corporate contributions to PACs — political action committees — in Seattle could work. Proponents say it would send a message that our democracy isn’t for sale. But what message will be broadcast when the cap is struck down?
It’s always seemed to me as though Seattle has a David vs. Goliath complex in which we perennially set ourselves up as David, but our slingshot skills suck, or we left it at home, or we can’t find a suitable rock.
“Hey, gang, let’s pass an income tax! It’ll work! The state can’t have one, but we can! We have moxie!”
“OK, well, that’s on hold, fine. In the meantime, how about we make big corporations pay a tax on employee hours to offset the negative impact of their growth on the city?”
“Oh. You have money that says ‘no, we won’t’? Never mind.”
The First Amendment argument supporting Citizens United seems to me to come down to the idea that everyone in this country has the same right to donate $1.5 million to a PAC. It’s the complete repudiation of the one-person, one-vote right. People say it isn’t, but if it weren’t, there would be no reason to take the issue to court.
It only matters because money does matter. And it’s only equitable if everyone has the same amount of money to spend on electioneering.
Sometimes I think we should cut out the elections entirely and go back to directly bribing the office holders. Who cares who’s in office as long as they take bribes? One bribe-taker is as good as any other. We’d save millions in election expenses, and the bribe money would boost the economy. Our politicians would have to spend their bribes to enjoy them. What’s good for Cadillac is good for America.
The best City Council members would be the ones who best delivered on their bribes. They’d be known by their results, which would encourage more bribes.
Amazon says they’re donating their money to achieve change, so that Seattle will have an effective city government. If they get the candidates they want elected, it will send a message to the newly elected council that Amazon put them there, and next time, Amazon could put someone else there.
In the long term, effective politicians are the ones who make sure they stay bought.
All that assumes PAC money does what PAC money is supposed to do. If it doesn’t, then Citizens United is just a big scam favoring political advertisers. Which would be good to know.
I live in one of the City Council districts Amazon’s PAC of choice is weighing in on. They want one particular candidate to win and not the other. What that says to me is that Amazon thinks the one they support would be a more effective City Council member than the other one.
Only, effective by what measure? As far as I can tell, the measure is “less progressive.” But “progressive” means “favoring progress and improved conditions.” If you aren’t progressive, then by definition you aren’t interested in improving the city. How is that apt to get you qualified to be effective, unless what is called for is being effective at accomplishing nothing?
For all the money it brings here, Amazon itself has been ineffective at improving conditions in Seattle.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
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