Uproar over the growing income inequality between the top one percent of earners and the rest has been a common talking point in the media, with policy makers, and in Obamavilles (aka Occupy Movement) in major cities across the country. Often coupled with this issue is a discussion of corporate influence in elections, which I disregarded as viewpoint based speech discrimination. The rise of the Super PAC was depicted as the root-of-all-evil with a stranglehold over our democratic republic. The super wealthy, the top one percent, created and funded political campaigns officially separated from the candidates that they supported. How do the interests of the everyman stand a chance against such overwhelming odds? Well, according to those most vocal on the issue, there is solidarity of the other ninety-nine percent of the population. That is certainly a margin that our democracy is well structured to recognize. Our democratic republic has rarely, if ever, failed to recognize such an overwhelming majority.
The populist movement in opposition to income inequality perceived recent events as exploitation by those with wealth and power to help them through the Great Recession by climbing over the everyman, and the justification for that anger was, I admitted, reasonable. Now the Republican primary is well underway, with PACs playing a major role, and Obama has recently acquiesced to the existence and utilization of Super PACs for his own campaign. These events have led the Occupy Movement to pursue an unsustainable argument, that they are both the overwhelming majority, and unrepresented in our democratic government. No matter how corrupting money can be, the individual will always have the power to elect his representatives. Corporations will never have the power of the vote. For as often as arguments are made that the wealthy have a leg up in the campaign and electoral processes, the correlation between spending and electoral success is not terribly strong, and often can be explained as a proxy for compelling and persuasive candidates tendency to gain financial and electoral support contemporaneously.
To argue that the majority is unrepresented or under represented, and that corporate money can buy an election through issue advocacy places woefully little faith in the electorate. It assumes that bad arguments become persuasive if repeated more often than good ideas. It assumes that the majority that is fed up with policies that perpetuate injustice and inequity will accept more of the status quo if corporations are able to spend unlimited funds. A narrow, largely unfavorable position cannot persuade a strong majority by spending money on an argument the majority already rejects. Our democracy was formed with the freedom of speech and expression with the assumption that better ideas in open dialogue will prevail over poor ideas. This does assume that the voter is a rational, or at least a logical thinker. Admittedly this is not always the case, but often the individual is adept at discerning purposes and goals of political rhetoric. If corruption in elected office, special interests, and kickbacks are a concern of the majority, it seems obvious that the risk of persuasion away from that position is not increased with more of the spending that is focus of the scrutiny.
Reasonable people can hold the opinion that TARP was an unjust and inequitable policy decision. Reasonable people can take issue with government picking winners and losers. Reasonable people can be wary of corruption in the electoral system. Reasonable people cannot claim both to be in the overwhelming majority, and fear undue monetary influence in political speech promoting policy favoring such a narrow portion of the electorate.