The Supreme Court’s gift to big business and Business owners brace for another rough year

Yesterday, the justices issued one of their most important business decisions in decades. Overturning two prior cases and undoing a century of First Amendment doctrine, a monumentally divided court ruled that corporations, well, are just like people, too. No longer can those corporations be banned by Congress from spending whatever they wanted on advertisements on political candidates. Money is like speech. Since you can pretty much say what you want, you can pretty much spend what you want on ads or paid documentaries or any other broadcast vehicle.

“The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for a 5-to-4 majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.” All of the Court’s conservatives voted in the majority, all the liberals in dissent. [Read the full article]

The industry trade group polled 450 small business owners around the country for its year-end report. Economic uncertainty is their biggest challenge, respondents said: 64% called it a threat to the growth and survival of their business. More than 70% said their sales dropped or stayed flat in 2010, with just 22% reporting revenue growth.

Business owners have a lot to be uncertain about, from when consumers will open their wallets again to whether Congress will pass a health care reform bill.

Main Street is largely bracing for another gloomy year: Two-thirds of the owners NSBA surveyed think their profits will stay the same or drop over the next 12 months.

Rising costs push pink slips: Health care reform is turning into a quagmire in Washington, but for business owners, the status quo isn’t working. In a separate NSBA study, 92% of small business owners said they expect an increase in the cost of their premiums in 2010. [Read the full article]

No more nibbling around the edges by adding regulators — the president is going straight after the “too big to fail” issue, and if Congress agrees with his proposal, the banks may realize, at long last, how much they’ve messed up in Washington.

The central idea of Obama’s proposal is fairly easy to grasp: Separate a bank’s riskiest operations from the parts that are vital to the economy functioning, like deposits and loans to individuals and businesses. Banks that hold federally insured deposits or borrow from the Fed would no longer be able to use any of those funds to gamble in the financial markets. The days of in-house hedge funds and buyout firms would be over.

The trouble lies in figuring out how this will all work in practice. Critics say the intentions here are good, but the dividing line between commercial banking and risky proprietary trading can be harder to spot than you would think.

“In commercial banking you make loans. [Read the full article]

Charities, companies, individuals and celebrities across the U.S. have been rallying together in the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude quake that rocked Haiti last Tuesday, and their efforts are paying off. As of Thursday evening — nine days after the earthquake struck — over $355 million in donations had been raised for relief efforts, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a newspaper covering nonprofit organizations. The estimate is based on a survey of 35 charities contributing the largest amounts of money to Haiti. “You’ve got a bad economy and a disaster outside of the U.S.,” said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “It makes sense that lots of people gave to the Katrina disaster in the U.S., but to give outside of the U.S. like this is remarkable, especially at a time with 10% unemployment.”

Within four days of the crisis alone, over $150 million was raised toward Haiti relief. [Read the full article]

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