Tom Jackson makes innocent but serious errors in his portrayal of the proposed 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in his column “A cynical, horrifying assault on the First Amendment” (The Right Stuff, Metro, July 13). First, I am irrevocably committed to free speech in the tradition of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who stated that the best solution to despicable speech is more speech, not silencing what we despise. Second, Jackson casts this as a Democrat vs. Republican issue, which it is not.
The proposed amendment would limit the influence of unions, which usually favor Democrats, in the same way that it would limit the influence of corporations, which tend to favor Republicans. Third, any laws passed by Congress would be subject to adjudication by the Supreme Court to ensure consistency with the First Amendment and other relevant constitutional provisions.
Jackson overlooks the majority opinion in the nation by individuals of all political persuasions that we now have the best government money can buy. In part, that is due to the unleashing of billions of dollars by recent Supreme Court decisions, which equate money with speech and endow corporations and other nonhuman institutions, such as unions, with the same rights as human beings. Until corporations and unions have a beating heart and a soul, I cannot believe the Founders assigned its protections to such nonhuman entities. There is no hint anywhere in the Bill of Rights that freedom of speech or press or religion leads to the freedom of spending money. As a strict constructionist, I am surprised that those who claim that title can stretch the Bill of Rights to that degree.
Many laws passed by Congress and actions taken by presidents in recent years have only benefited a small group and harmed the majority of people. One example would be the recent revocation by Congress of a regulation protecting us from sleep-deprived, long-haul tractor-trailer truck drivers, whose workweek had been capped at 70 hours.
Billionaires, corporations and unions are creating an uneven political playing field on which elected officials and regulators are indebted to them not just for access but are responsive to their requests for votes. Who among us wants our politicians to be “owned” in this way? In any field other than politics, this would be called bribery.
Although I will not indulge in the hyperbole of Mr. Jackson, I am convinced that the most serious problem facing the nation is that our government is the captive of “big money” on all sides, and that until we have a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to pass laws subject to the other provisions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and subject to the balance of power within the Supreme Court, we will continue to “enjoy” what we now have: the best government that money can buy. There are few in the nation who believe our fundraising process for elections is fair and balanced. The 28th Constitutional Amendment is intended to restore balance to fundraising by candidates of all persuasions.