Building on the Work of Occupy Wall Street

The best thing I’ve read lately about how to channel public frustration into constructive action is this column by Scott Turow, holding forth at Bloomberg last weekend:

By treating money as an analog for speech, the court’s post-Buckley jurisprudence has figuratively allowed the rich to speak through microphones while the poor can barely whisper, and tolerates a situation in which the voices of contributors are amplified to the point that they drown out the opinions of mere voters. I have never understood how permitting the wealthy so much greater influence over the political process can be squared with the vision of equality on which the country was founded.

As I’ve suggested before, some money in politics is speech, but too much money in politics is bribery in one form or another. Turow is quite realistic about what it will take to accomplish this:

Unfortunately, nothing less than a constitutional amendment is likely to reverse the situation. For now, the court’s conservative majority is firmly entrenched. And even were the court to become more moderate, with the replacement of one of the conservative justices, the principle of stare decisis, of respect for prior decisions, would mean that any effort to erase the damage done since Buckley would necessarily be incremental.

As for the Occupy Wall Street movement, it has been criticized by some for not having a realistic agenda, even though polling shows that millions of Americans, including me, are sympathetic to the basic message of the protests, if not the violent engagements with police that have occurred in Oakland, California, and elsewhere.

So here is my suggestion for how the Occupiers can rally around a single goal and reinvigorate their movement. The Constitution can be amended by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states. The demonstrators should head for the public spaces in Washington where protests have long been tolerated and demand that Congress amend the Constitution to change our campaign- finance system.

Not a bad idea. Read the whole thing.

About Andrew Samwick 89 Articles

Affiliation: Dartmouth College

Andrew Samwick is a professor of economics and Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

He is most widely known for his work on the economics of retirement, and his scholarly work has covered a range of topics, including pensions, saving, taxation, portfolio choice, and executive compensation.

In July 2003, Samwick joined the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, serving for a year as its chief economist and helping to direct the work of about 20 economists in support of the three Presidential appointees on the Council.

Visit: Andrew Samwick's Page

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