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Friday, April 04, 2014

The Best Campaign Finance Reform Would Be Soaking the Rich

I strongly endorse Alex Pareene's sentiments as people freak out over the Supreme Court's latest demolition of our already utterly ineffectual campaign finance limts:
So, if we think that money in politics is a problem; if we think it creates the appearance of corruption, alienates non-wealthy citizens from the democratic process, perverts incentives for politicians and candidates, and creates an unequal system in which the speech of the rich drowns out the speech of everyone else -- and all of those things are already the long-standing status quo -- we can no longer seek to address the problem by preventing money from flowing into politics. The Supreme Court is clearly not going to meet a new spending restriction that it likes any time soon. Instead of attempting to dictate how the wealthy spend their money, we are probably just going to have to take away their money. If the super-rich had less money, they would have less money to spend on campaigns and lobbying. And unlike speech, the government is very clearly allowed to take away people’s money. It’s in the Constitution and everything. I know it wasn’t that long ago that it also seemed obvious that the government could regulate political spending, but in this case the relevant constitutional authority is pretty clear and there is no room for a so-called originalist to justify a politically conservative reading of the text. Congress can tax income any way it pleases. There is one glaring problem with my plan, of course, which is that Congress is already captured by wealthy interests, and is not inclined to tax them. But all I’m saying is that would-be campaign finance reformers ought to give up on their lost cause and shift their energies toward confiscation and redistribution.
Adding more income tax brackets and taxing capital gains as income and increasing inheritance taxes and raising the taxable cap on income for social security and introducing a financial transaction tax are all things progressives should fight for with exactly the same stubborn incessance of wingnuts reflexively demanding tax cuts for the rich with the idiot fervor generation after generation. Raising taxes does a number of things at once -- funding through general welfare provision a legible scene of informed non-duressed consent to the terms of everyday commerce and enabling the equitable administration of common and public goods not least of these, but also providing a countervailing power to anti-democratizing concentrations of wealth that occur in any case in the rough and tumble of comparatively enterprising societies -- unlike the tax cut mantra of the right, the tax and spend mantra of the left actually does enable the majority of people who work for a living to have nice things and check those who would treat the majority like shit. Given our present and upcoming insanely neglected environmental crises there is about to be a whole hell of a lot of public infrastructure and support that needs paying for, I might add. But more to the point of this post, campaign finance laws almost never get passed at all and when they rarely do they inevitably yield unintended consequences and are inevitably gamed by the rich to their disproportionate benefit anyway. Politicians will never be paid as much as the people they hobnob with and lobbying will always be a lucrative investment, so the best check is a steeply progressive taxation that removes some of the temptation created by having piles of money around without competing luxuries to spend it on and eliminates extremes of wealth concentration as a pathologizing payoff lure.

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