The policy decisions made by the various parts of our government have a huge impact on our lives and our finances. Good decisions have good outcomes but bad ones can be disastrous. In order to make good decisions the decisions have to be based on facts, data, and science-based logic. Unfortunately, our government runs primarily on ideology. And we, the citizens are paying the price. Here is how the Supreme Court is doing.
When lower courts come up with legal decisions that are questioned, the case keeps working its way up the ladder until it gets to the top rung which is the Supreme Court. This court is made up of justices who are supposed to be the best legal minds in the country. It consists of one chief and eight associate justices. They are selected by the president and Senate. They have their jobs pretty much for life.
Pew Research found that in January, 2022 about 54% of Americans view the Supreme Court favorably compared to about 70% in 2020. Although it is dropping, it is still a much higher rating than Congress. Because of how the justices are selected, as our government becomes more ideologically extreme the Supreme Court has the potential for becoming the same. According to Pew Research, 84% of adults think the justices in the Supreme Court should not bring their political views into decision-making. And once again, the American people are right.
Since the court’s decisions are made based on a popular vote among the members and since any cases that make it to this level are already not clear cut, the number of conservative vs liberal justices in the court will, no doubt, make a difference. According to the Washington Post, between 2000 and 2016, 36 percent of the decisions made by the court were unanimous and 19 percent were 5-4 decisions, with the other ones in between.
Unfortunately, there are cases where close decisions have had disastrous consequences. The best example of this is the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court which amounted to a decision between campaign finance reform and free speech; basically, how much the government can restrict campaign contributions by organizations. The result was a 5-4 vote in favor of free speech.
A University of Maryland poll taken in 2018 found that 85 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans back a Constitutional Amendment outlawing Citizens United. The American public was as much against the ruling in 2010. Once again, though, Congress is the organization that dropped the ball. The legislation that was submitted, primarily the Disclose Act of 2010, not surprisingly did not pass.
This court decision has had a major impact on the fairness of our elections and is arguably threatening our democracy. Any time the Supreme Court votes 5-4 on anything it is likely that ideological thinking played at least some role in making that decision. However, the problem is something that Congress should have resolved by now if it was capable of implemented the will of the people, which is its job.
The Supreme Court appears to be better than the rest of our government in doing things that make sense. It’s nice to know that something in Washington actually works fairly well.