Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Modest Suggestion

According to the Supreme Court, money is speech, which is hard to argue against since we all know that money talks. On the other hand, unlimited political contributions erode one of the most fundamental preconditions of a lawful society, the establishment of an artificial realm of legal equality in which reasons can be heard above the din of power. Men are not made equal, after all. We make them equal by agreeing to treat them as equal for certain specific purposes. Of course in the real world, even if we refrain from settling law suits by holding a public auction, wealth already lays a heavy thumb on the scales of justice. Which is why we don’t need to find other ways to safeguard the prerogatives of privilege. Dollars are already more effectual than votes, and even formal equality, far from being a looming threat, is a departing dream. Which leads to my suggestion: in order to form a more perfect Union, let us level the playing field a little by imposing a progressive tax on political contributions. Token contributions, the $20s and $50, would pay little or nothing, while the $1,000s would get nicked significantly. Let us allow anybody to contribute any amount of money to any candidate or cause, but let a portion of that contribution go to the public treasury. Monsanto and Pfizer and rest can go on purchasing senators just as they do right now, but they would at least have to pay some reasonable levy, say 50%, every time they did so. Think of it as a sales tax. After all, their intent is to buy the country or at least rent it. It’s only fair that the rest of us get a cut of the profits they intend to make from the transaction.

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