The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an 'Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery'
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines an "oligarchy" as: "A government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes."
Former President Jimmy Carter had some choice words for our form of government, post-Citizen's United, on my radio program last week. When I asked him his thoughts on the state of American politics since five right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court opened the doors to "unlimited money" in our political discourse via Citizens United, Carter was blunt and to the point.
President Jimmy Carter: The United States is an Oligarchy... http://t.co/IyJAjJa15z
— Thom Hartmann (@Thom_Hartmann) July 29, 2015
“It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.
"So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over."
I asked him then what might change things and he said it would take a “horrible, disgraceful” corruption scandal (think Nixon) that would "turn the public against it [Citizens United] and maybe even the Congress and the Supreme Court."
Carter added, "The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger, so it benefits both parties.”
Read page 1
Carter's observations validate Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in the Citizens United case (Ginsberg, Bryer and Sotomayor concurring), when Stevens wrote about what he foresaw as the future of American politics because of the Citizens United decision that was handed down that day:
"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices, there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter [this decision]. Corporate ‘domination’ of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy."
"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing."
"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders ‘call the tune’ and a reduced ‘willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.’ To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled."
"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation. On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people’ and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust and wide-open.' At the least, I stress again, a legislature is entitled to credit these concerns and to take tailored measures in response."
President Carter is right. Corporate interests (oil companies, for example, are why Republicans and a few bought-out Democrats deny climate change) and the billionaires who got rich off their corporations have seized control of most of our government.
One solution is a simple constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not and don’t have the rights of, human persons and that reverses the 1976 Buckley decision by saying explicitly that spending money on politics is a behavior that can be regulated, not a form of “speech” with broad immunity under the First Amendment.
Politicians are catching on. Senator Bernie Sanders, who aspires to President Carter’s old job, has not only endorsed such an amendment (he’s alone in this among all presidential candidates) but has even introduced a version of it several times into Congress.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Corporations that flouted environmental regulations and spewed pollutants into the air and dumped them into waterways will not be required to pay the fines they agreed to during the pandemic, according to The Guardian.
- Cost of Polluter Penalties at 20-Year-Low Under Trump's EPA ... ›
- Penalties Against Polluters Drop 60% Under Trump - EcoWatch ›
- Oil Companies Were Not Held Accountable for 10.8 Million Gallons ... ›
By Hans Nicholas Jong
The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.
Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.
- Coral Reef Tipping Point: 'Near-Annual' Bleaching May Occur ... ›
- Coral in Crisis: Can Replanting Efforts Halt Reefs' Death Spiral ... ›
- 2020 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching Event Is Most Widespread to Date ›
During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.
But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.
- Algal Blooms Can be Deadly to Your Dogs - EcoWatch ›
- Every Mississippi Beach Is Closed Due to Toxic Algae - EcoWatch ›
- Toxic Algal Blooms Connected to Climate Change and Industrial ... ›
More than 40 million doctors and nurses are in, and they are prescribing a green recovery from the economic devastation caused by the new coronavirus.
- A 'Green Stimulus' Could Battle Three Crises: Coronavirus ... ›
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Canadian Groups Fight for a Just Covid-19 Recovery - EcoWatch ›
The U.K. government has proposed delaying the annual international climate negotiations for a full year after its original date to November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
By Jared Kaufman
Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.
- Chefs Are Going Back to Their Roots for Local, Sustainable Foraged ... ›
- This Montreal Company Turns Juice Pulp Into Food - EcoWatch ›