President Barack Obama waves before giving his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)
President Obama, who famously used his 2010 State of the Union address to rip activist Supreme Court Justices for removing longstanding barriers to corporate control of the political discourse, did not mention the Court’s wrongheaded Citizens United decision in his 2012 State of the Union address.
That was concerning.
Not just because the president’s support is needed to expand the campaign to amend the Constitution so that it is clear free speech rights are afforded citizens, not corporations. But because this is a moment when it is essential to explain how Wall Street is using its “money power” to thwart the will of the people when it comes to debt and deficit debates.
As the country stumbles toward sequestration, powerful forces are seeking to take advantage of the wrangling. Hoping to capitalize on popular frustration with the fighting in Washington, the failed proponents of a far deeper austerity than sequestration would impose, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, are back with a new plan to hack away at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
They are advancing failed ideas, which have already been proven by the bitter experience of European nations to stall growth and increase unemployment.
They are advancing failed ideas that have already been rejected by the America people, who voted in the 2012 election against candidates endorsed by Simpson and Bowles and against the most prominent American champion of austerity: House Budget Committee chairman and defeated Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
Yet they are being heard because of a massive new “Fix the Debt” campaign, which is already spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying to repurpose Simpson-Bowles as the only answer to what ails the economy. With financial backing from the nation’s wealthiest CEOs, they are not just advancing an agenda. They are speaking to elected officials as individuals with the power to direct vast resources toward the cause of re-electing or defeating favored contenders.
In the Citizens United era, when corporations and CEOs can spend as they please to influence elections, that’s a powerful threat.
And Obama should address it.
We know the president is aware of the threat. We know that he sympathizes with those who would amend the Constitution to address the money power. Indeed, during the course of the 2012 campaign, Obama indicated that he was supportive of an amendment.