Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Does the Supreme Court Ruling Call for a Populist Revolt?

E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post believes - that after the Supreme Court, in a fundamental reversal of precedent, that removed legislative restrictions on the role of corporations in political campaigns, ruling that companies can spend as much as they want to support or oppose individual candidates - "the only proper response to this distortion of our political system by ideologically driven justices is a popular revolt".

This court ruling should also challenge the fake populism we have seen of late. It disguises a defense of the interests of the powerful behind crowd-pleasing rhetoric against "Washington," "taxes" and, yes, "Obama."

President Obama has helped feed this faux populist revolt by failing to understand until recently how deeply frustrated politically moderate, middle-class Americans are over policies that bailed out the banks while leaving behind millions of unemployed and millions more alarmed about their economic futures.

If average voters came to see government primarily as an instrument of the banks, why should they believe that the same government could help them on matters of health care and employment? This problem was aggravated by puffed-up, self-involved U.S. senators who conspired to make the legislative process look as ugly and chaotic as possible.

Obama began turning toward populism before the results of the Massachusetts Senate race rolled in. Republican Scott Brown's victory made the new turn imperative.

The president has now offered a modest tax on the big financial institutions to cover the costs of bailouts, and a tougher approach to banks that will limit their size and their capacity to make economy-wrecking financial bets. It's a decent start, and it's about time.

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