On the Left’s favorite catchphrase “Money Isn’t Speech”

Since the Supreme Court dealt a blow to laws restricting money in politics in Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC, it’s easy to spot a liberal conveying her displeasure by regurgitating a trite one-liner:

“Money isn’t speech.”

Well, take that Chief Justice Roberts – your court would certainly have decided otherwise, if only this piece of irrefutable insight were shared with it!

It would be easier to ignore such posturing, if a host of Democrats were not determined in undermining the First Amendment by rallying their base behind this slogan. Not kidding – forty-one Democrat Senators, including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, proposed an amendment to the Constitution that will override the free speech protections afforded by the Bill of Rights!†

So, let me explain why the proposition “money isn’t speech,” even though superficially true, does not at all serve the purpose liberals want it to.

Of course, money isn’t speech, in a literal sense. But, that does not mean Congress can limit the money one can spend on furthering her speech while not affecting her right to free speech. Communicating speech may involve distributing pamphlets, books and movies; and writing articles on websites, all of which require money. Speech isn’t sui generis, in this sense. Money is an inextricable part of our lives and plays an important role in helping achieve our interests.

Consider this: money isn’t abortion, either. But you cannot expect liberals to stay mum if Congress were to propose passing laws limiting expenditure on abortion, can you? Would they not go up in arms about the supposed right to abortion being infringed? The plain truth is: it is impossible to limit expenditure on something and not affect the right to it!

Some counter that speech does not necessarily require money – one can, after all, simply choose to talk face-to-face with others. This rejoinder is misleading on multiple levels. First, you can only talk to so many people that way. Yes, you could recruit others to do the job, but guess what: they may ask to be paid! Or, you might find a group of people ready to volunteer for your cause, if there is one. That brings me to the crucial second point: even if there is a way that permits you to disseminate your ideas in a cost-free or less costly manner (in relation to the way you chose), the government has no business mandating that you use it.

It might not appear to be self-evident that this is the case: but, the alternative is to allow the government to regulate which channels of communication people can employ in various situations or limit the reach of your message, a clear affront to the First Amendment’s letter and spirit. The abortion analogy can come handy again: would liberals find it okay if the government decreed that a person must use a cheap healthcare facility, or limited the amount of money she could spend getting abortions? No!

The other common argument – that you can use “free” services like Twitter or YouTube similarly falls under minimal scrutiny. Leave aside, for a minute, the plain but overlooked fact that the continued operation of these services requires private funding: the government simply cannot be trusted with the power to tell which media are “acceptable.” If you want to launch your own website, write your own book, or create your own movie, you should be absolutely free to do so. The availability of “free” services, which by the way are and should be under no obligation to carry your views, is no excuse to restrict you.

The right to free speech is one of the most essential and cherished rights the citizenry has. Any proposal to diminish it under the pretense of “leveling the playing field” or “curtailing money in politics” is an outrage. As always, the solution lies in having more speech, not less.

***

Read Senator Ted Cruz’s insightful op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and Charles Cooke’s piece, both castigating Democrats for their assault on the First Amendment.

The Senate Joint Resolution 19 proposes an amendment to the Constitution that says “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on…the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.” A book or movie may endorse a candidate, and thus would be subject to being banned or its distribution curtailed by the government. The Citizens United case was literally about FEC trying to limit the distribution of a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton.

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Obama is re-elected. Phew!

Barack and Michelle Obama in Dubuque, Iowa
Barack and Michelle Obama in Dubuque, Iowa

 

Note: I have changed a lot actually. This post doesn’t represent my views anymore.

Nothing can be more consoling to me at the moment than Obama’s win. The Romney campaign made it very clear: there’s only one choice voters had if they wanted a nation which provides equal opportunities to women, to Hispanics; doesn’t discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation; doesn’t abruptly outlaw abortion and push the motto of individualism when the reality is that the less fortunate among us need our support.

If Romney had won this election, it would’ve meant the defeat of truth. As Kevin M. Ruse said in a New York Times Opinion piece, his campaign showed a fundamental disdain for truth and by winning he would’ve successfully demonstrated that a candidate can get away with lying, at the scale he did.  PolitiFact chronicled 19 “pants on fire” lies by him including distortions about Obama’s policies on Medicare and taxes. Moreover, the Republican party’s extremely conservative approach towards issues like abortion and climate change would’ve made the matter worse. Although, both the candidates tried to shy away from the topic of climate change, Romney was the one to deny it and say, “I love coal.” Obama might have evaded the topic to win votes among climate change skeptics, but his statement after winning the election makes his stance clear:

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

The nations need to combat climate change with agreed-upon and tough measures, instead of blaming it on one another or denying it altogether. In this respect, Obama’s re-election as the President of one of the top countries on greenhouse gas emission lists, is a good sign for the future.

I can rant incessantly about how the out-dated perspective of the GOP would’ve been gut-wrenching for our nation. We cannot afford to ignore those in need, by letting markets dictate their own will. An example of left-wing approach to solving healthcare problems is Obamacare, a piece of legislation that requires insurance companies to provide people with insurance at same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions or gender. Although, this requires people who are well-off to pay a tax to support this system, its benefits can hardly be overemphasized. Yet, Romney wanted to repeal it. The people in the European nations look at our country with surprise, as they already have such legislation in their countries. Also, abortion, gay marriage are not even issues to be pondered over there. In these respects, the GOP is more conservative and more on the right than almost any party in Europe. The fact that its candidate did not get in the Office, does not ever cease to be pleasant for a freethinking liberal like me.

There’s much to do. We need to shut down that detention camp in Guantánamo bay, need to revive the economy and a lot more. Wish Obama luck for #4moreyears.

The Guardian has a take on what Obama’s victory means for action on global warming.

The photograph of Barack and Michelle Obama was taken by Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America and available at Flickr. It was used here under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.