StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Building on the Work of Occupy Wall Street

27 Nov 2011
Posted by Andrew Samwick

The best thing I've read lately about how to channel public frustration into constructive action is this column by Scott Turow, holding forth at Bloomberg last weekend:

By treating money as an analog for speech, the court’s post-Buckley jurisprudence has figuratively allowed the rich to speak through microphones while the poor can barely whisper, and tolerates a situation in which the voices of contributors are amplified to the point that they drown out the opinions of mere voters. I have never understood how permitting the wealthy so much greater influence over the political process can be squared with the vision of equality on which the country was founded.

As I've suggested before, some money in politics is speech, but too much money in politics is bribery in one form or another.  Turow is quite realistic about what it will take to accomplish this:

Unfortunately, nothing less than a constitutional amendment is likely to reverse the situation. For now, the court’s conservative majority is firmly entrenched. And even were the court to become more moderate, with the replacement of one of the conservative justices, the principle of stare decisis, of respect for prior decisions, would mean that any effort to erase the damage done since Buckley would necessarily be incremental.

As for the Occupy Wall Street movement, it has been criticized by some for not having a realistic agenda, even though polling shows that millions of Americans, including me, are sympathetic to the basic message of the protests, if not the violent engagements with police that have occurred in Oakland, California, and elsewhere.

So here is my suggestion for how the Occupiers can rally around a single goal and reinvigorate their movement. The Constitution can be amended by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states. The demonstrators should head for the public spaces in Washington where protests have long been tolerated and demand that Congress amend the Constitution to change our campaign- finance system.

Not a bad idea.  Read the whole thing.

So what?

We're in an age where the GOP and their followers publicly insist that economic inequality is good for everybody.

As for campaign finance: Sen. McCain is still attacked consistently in his own party's echo chamber for his campaign finance "attack on free speech" and that was almost ten years ago. If corporations are people, as the front-runner(?) of the GOP presidential race says, then let's bring back the draft.

First, yes, as I said on a

First, yes, as I said on a few blogs at the beginning of the OWS protests, the most obvious smart issue for them to coalesce around is campaign finance. It makes the most sense, given their two major complaints.

As for their complaint that corporations are greedy and should put people before profits, well they aren't going to make a ton of progress turning the business world into an altruistic make-work engine employing more people than is optimal at above-market compensation (and I'm glad they won't, because that's not the function of business and that's not how standards of living have the best chance of rising broadly).

But as for their other major complaint, that government -- in particular, the politicians who enact fiscal policy, regulatory policy, etc. -- are serving "the 1%" disproportionately at the expense of "the 99%", well obviously if one subscribes to that premise one should ask why a politician would behave that way, given that there are many more potential votes from the 99%. And the bulk of the answer is that "the 1%" can disproportionately affect a politician's chances at election/re-election via disproportionate campaign contributions, and they thereby have disproportionate influence over who can mount a competitive campaign, who wins, what they push for, and how they vote.

But there are smarter ways to level the playing field than seeking a constitutional amendment. First, even if (arguendo) one considers this type of amendment appropriate and good, in general we should be extremely wary of messing around with the Constitution (particularly to circumvent or explicitly limit our treasured First Amendment), lest we change attitudes and make amendments more common and turn the document into something more like a venue for legislation than a guarantee of liberties. We should consider the risk of opening up such a Pandora's Box (for example, I'm glad efforts for an amendment banning flag-burning never got anywhere, and I think part of the reason is general reluctance to mess with the First Amendment). Second, I think that has less chance of success (and could take a long time failing as it diverts attention from alternatives) than both ideas I'll discuss below.

I think history (and to some degree common sense) has shown that efforts to "put out the fire" by prohibiting particular methods or levels of funding political speech are unlikely to succeed. It always seems that those seeking disproportionate influence via money have the will and find a way. And I would also note that there are arguably legitimate arguments that some such restrictions (proposed or enacted) have violated First Amendment rights.

Fighting fire with fire seems to have a better chance at succeeding.

Before Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (Consolidated with McComish v. Bennett) I thought a good solution would be voluntary public funding system that offered candidates who limited total private contributions (1) a very high matching multiple so a candidate who could prove some degree of support as evidenced by some reasonable level of small contributions could get enough matching dollars to mount a reasonable campaign, and (2) an opportunity for additional dollars if facing a well-financed opponent who opted out of the system. But at least until there is a one-justice shift in composition of the Supreme Court, that seems like at best an unreliable approach. (I'm not a lawyer, let alone a constitutional lawyer, so by all means someone correct me if I'm viewing that overly pessimistically)

But a different "fighting fire with fire" approach seems potentially practical and on more secure in terms of constitutionality. It's the public financing plan proposed by Yale Law School professors Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres: Voting with dollars. I don't want to take up even more space with this comment, so instead of pasting I'll link to description:


What work?

What did OWS accomplish other than demonstrate that they are a bunch of spoiled brats who don't have a clue about how to make a cogent argument backed by actual facts, and have no actual idea how successful societies actually function to produce wealth and security.

Oh, and repel most of the 99% they claim to represent with their unruliness, lack of respect for other human beings and last, but not least, their total lack of basic hygiene.


When you write "...brats who don't have a clue about how to make a cogent argument..." aren't you really talking about the Republican Party?

Brats, indeed!

Yep, it's the dirt

Funny, the description you've copy-pasted from the RW noise machine nearly PERFECTLY describes the people who've actually wrecked our country with conservative nonsense: spoiled, unwilling to acknowledge facts, no idea how real economies work.

Except the hygiene part - clearly, it's far preferable to have our way of life destroyed by people who *shower* before going off to wreak havoc...

I agree. I was tempted to

I agree. I was tempted to mention in my comment upthread that I think it's giving OWS wayyyy too much credit to speak of "building on [their] work", but I didn't want to distract from my point.

I would note, though, that although I think the Occupy folks are generally more obnoxious and more clueless than the Tea Partiers, I think the latter (particularly in early stages, but still now) also suffer from a very high ratio of passion & vocal volume to actual understanding, insight, valid information, and sensible policy ideas.

How does THAT work?

"millions of Americans, including me, are sympathetic to the basic message of the protests, if not the violent engagements with police that have occurred in Oakland, California, and elsewhere."

I'm curious - how does THAT work? A literal reading of this statement can be summed up as, "we support you, but when a police officer maces you for sitting still we support you less."

Corporations are people! -->

Corporations are people! --> Hostile takeovers and mergers are cannibalism!

If spending money is speech,

If spending money is speech, then withholding money is also speech (a form of message-sending, anyway). The aristocracy has more influence with politicians because they can buy it with corporate dollars, but this doesn't mean the politicians want you to stop giving them money either. You just get less representation for it. So if you are not going to get representation for your money, why pay it? If we should pay no taxes without representation, then pay no contributions either. So: do not give money to politicians, or at least those who also take from Wall Street. And let them know why.

28th Amendment

"The term "Person", as included in this Constitution, shall apply only to natural persons."

You must be more explicit:

No provision of this constitution shall be construed to limit the powers of the Congress and the several States to control donations to candidates and spending by any party in elections to federal, state and local offices

No such amendment is needed.

No such amendment is needed. That unlimited power by Congress already exists in Art 1, Sec 5

"Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members" and

"Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member."

Congress has complete authority to control itself. It does NOT have the authority -- even in the name of "campaign finance reform" - to limit the political speech of citizens. And the pre-CU "campaign finance" law did exactly that by prohibiting CITIZENS from pooling resources to speak out to more than an irrelevant number of people about a pol within 30 days of an election.

Not at all funny that Turow

Not at all funny that Turow doesn't even see the irony of railing against the Citizens United decision via a specific media CORPORATION that was always exempt from the political speech restrictions.

It is understandable, and entirely self-interested, that paid journalists are livid about the Citizens United decision and are deliberately lying thru their teeth about the details of the decision. They lost their very lucrative (read 100% of campaign donations that are spent on advertising) government-created monopoly over political speech.

But I for one am getting damn sick of those lying sacks of manure arguing that the CU decision has the slightest thing to do with the bribery of politicians. Our politicians have been whores and extortionists for DECADES. Nothing in any recent decision has reduced the ability of politicians to "clean themselves up" or to eliminate hidden/visible corporate contributions to their campaigns. Nor is there the slightest constitutional limit on Congress as an institution cleaning itself up -- Article 1, Section 5. The reason politicians don't clean themselves up is because they prefer things just the way they are. Dirty, corrupt, and venal - and where they can blame everyone else but themselves for them being dirty/corrupt/venal.

The solution is not to listen to some more blahblah about "reform" from those who are the problem. The solution is to fire every freaking one of them. NO EXCEPTIONS. And keep firing them every election until they understand who is the boss here and who is the public SERVANT.

Unfortunately, that means that ordinary Americans are going to have to pull their heads out of their colons long enough to understand that we are the ultimate decision makers here -- and we already have that power every single election. The chances of this happening are near zero. It is quite obvious that the vast majority of Americans have zero interest in taking responsibility for being actual citizens. Including the OWS crowd who are little more than chicks squawking for gimme gimme gimme free free free. At least the Tea Party groups started down the road of challenging actual pols in actual primaries.

We have exactly the government we deserve -- and we deserve everything that will happen to us as a result.

On another topic

Samwick has had this regulatory capture thing right for years . . .

Dirting F'ing Hippies!!!

OWS needs to stop bitting the corporate hand that feeds them, like all the other TRAINED DOGS!!!

If we are so intent on getting goverment out of the marketplace, then why do we allow corporations to exist?

Why do corporations get government granted limited liability? If you are against 'risk management', why would you reduce the ability of the 'free market' to punish shareholders of companies that fail?

Risk management for people is called socialism. Riak management for corporations is called capitalism.

OWS and the Tea Party

How would Wall Street be able to make a dime without government interference in the marketplace?

Do you think I am going to give my money to a hedge fund manager to invest in whatever company he chooses if I know I can lose everything if the corporation goes under, or creates a masive oil spill?

The 'wealth' created by Wall Street is only created because of government intervention in the marketplace.

We already have enough capital, that's why everyone is going into debt trying to buy the products that this capital is already producing.

respond this topic

This is understandable that cash can make people free. But how to act when one does not have money? The one way is to try to get the business loans and credit loan.

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