Friday, June 29, 2007

This Court Sponsored By (Insert Corporation Name here)

A little noted decision by the Supreme Court has overturned a precedent on anti-trust law regulating retail pricing dating back to 1911.

The court ruled that manufacturers may fix the retail costs of goods. Prior to today the retailer fixed the price, leading to the famed "manufacturers suggested retail price" sticker in car windows. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split decision featuring the same Roberts/Scalia/Alito/Thomas/Kennedy majority that combined to swerve the court rightward through out it's term, ruled that the precedent setting retail pricing for this nation since 1911 were outdated, and out of step with modern economics.

Believe you me, I don't make any pretense at being an economic wizard, but frankly this opinion is baffling. The forces of economics guiding this nations entire financial engine since early last century are what have brought us to where we are today. The Supreme Court is meddling with the fundamentals here. Surely one of those basic forces is the mechanism by which prices paid by consumers for every day common retail goods is set. As the famous line from Mr. Beale goes: YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!

"Modern economics", as defined by the rightist bloc which ruled 15 times this year in favor of shielding businesses and corporations from consumers, seems to consist of corporate interests doing whatever they please and consumers just having to deal as best we can with the consequences. You are likely to see the consequences of the retail price fixing ruling in higher prices for many common retail items in short order. You may thank the Supreme Court when you notice this lightening of your wallet, which will directly enrich the corporate interests this court seems to be so eager to help at your expense. The same corporate interests which have largely benefited from the largess of the Bush administrations policies, and a compliant Congress, now have the Supreme Court making sure that the entire weight of Government sides with them against the rest of us. The next thing we might expect is for the Justices to start wearing corporate logos on their robes in the style of race car drivers.

There have been many occasions for pundits to note the eagerness of the ascendant conservative bloc to over turn settled law despite the oft heard protestations during confirmation that they held a heavy respect for precedent. The retail price fixing ruling may not be sexy to write about or particularly interesting reading, but I think this ruling has a greater chance of directly affecting you than most of the other rulings which did get a lot of opinion. After all, what are you more likely to do in the next week or so: go buy something from a retailer, or stand on a parade route holding a bong hits for Jesus sign?

It is indeed time for Senatorial oversight of Supreme court nominees to move past the pro-forma questioning in which the nominee refuses to speculate on the most important issues that may come before them. Senators should pin them down on judicial philosophy, and get a real understanding of the consequences that voting for the nominee means for the future of this nation. If the nominee refuses, they are not guaranteed or even particularly deserving of votes for confirmation. There is no clause in the constitution which specifies the tone or line of questioning which is appropriate for nominees. After all, we see that the constrained hearings which have become commonplace for today's nominee did not draw out the truth of the matter when it came to Alito and Roberts willingness to overturn precedent no matter how often they expressed their respect for settled law in the hearings.

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