In the State of the Union address, President Obama thought it would be pleasant to slam the Supreme Court, shaming them for their recent Citizens United v. FEC decision. Our Leader claimed that, because of the Court’s mistake, foreign powers will soon take over our elections.
As Mr Obama was wagging his Bill-Clinton at the audience, and the Democrats surged to their feet, Justice Alito, surrounded, could be seen mouthing, “Not true.”
Not sure how it would have turned out if a riot did break out. Alito is a big guy, as is Thomas. Scalia is scrappy and Roberts backs down to no man. But the rest of the Court is fairly scrawny and would have been chosen last at the playground.
Still, a few more fightin’ words from Obama, and we would have had a scene right out of George Romero movie. It would have been a supreme battle, but short.
Professor Bruce Ackerman and Representative David Wu would spare us this bloodshed. They too fret that the Court’s decision will give corporate interests “disproportionate” and “outsize influence on campaigns.”
Solution? In a 27 January Wall Street Journal article, the pair suggest giving every citizen who files a tax return $50 with which they must donate to “federal candidates.”
Actually, they didn’t say “must.” They said “could.” But if it’s not “must”, most people will not donate: what family wouldn’t like an extra hundred bucks back? It must be “must.”
They also did not say where the money would come from for those who are not due a refund. Presumably—in the ever-numbing interest of fairness—these folks would be given the money gratis. That money would have to be taken from those who have it and given to those who do not.
The program of “electronic transfers” would be called “democracy dollars.” How much democracy is this? They figure the 120 million people who voted in the last presidential election is about right, which makes six billion. Six Billion!
In the 2008 election, the spending by all candidates, including the primaries, totaled about two billion. That money would not go away with the advent of democracy dollars. Thus, the total amount available to spend for elections under the Ackerman-Yu plan would be increased to eight billion. Eight billion!
Talk about outsize.
The professor and politician argue that this flood of money will caused candidates to “find new rewards by appealing to mainstream interests.” Politicians will have to tout for those democracy dollars. This touting would give citizens “a renewed sense that they could make a difference in politics.” Happiness would abound.
And that naughty Supreme Court would have a “very hard time striking down democracy dollars.”
Here is why the idea won’t work and why democracy dollars, like many academic ideas, would have the exact opposite of its intended effect.
Once democracy dollars are in place, the first thing that will happen is the creation of many new candidates for political office. Political people are going to want to get their slice of that enormous, juicy pie. Primaries will be longer lasting and more diffuse because the number of candidates will double or triple.
Third party candidates—socialists, communists, Wiccans, and on and on—will join the queue and scream for theirs. And who can turn them down? To do so would be to discriminate. And not just in the politically correct sense.
If the government does not define what a legitimate political party is, then anybody can be one (as they can be, now). I’ll be one: just so I can pocket some of that money. This general largess will be seen as unacceptable. Thus, the politicians already in government will be made to decide who can be—and who cannot be—a politician. It will also require them to decide what opinions and actions legitimate politicians can have.
Small donors—those only giving democracy dollars—will still be less important than large donors. The masses will still be seen as the faceless masses, and whales will still be allowed to swim upstream. Politicians will still have time for their largest donors and will still be too busy to see every citizen.
All that will be accomplished by the sudden quadrupling of the money in the election system, will be a quadrupling in corruption. Political candidates—those that are defined as legitimate—will hire larger staffs, fund more activities, engage in more favor making. They will spend more money.
And why stop at quadrupling? If it’s $50 this year, why not $60 next, and $100 in three? There is inflation, after all. Some of that money will also, invariably, be shunted to other activities that are deemed associated with elections. Groups like “community organizers” will be allowed—in the name of equality—to have a small cut.
Given all these likely scenarios, Ackerman’s and Yu’s program should be re-named “oligarchy dollars.”