Thursday, October 1, 2009

Corporations are people too

We live in a country dominated by corporate power and corporate interests. Our corporate masters buy and sell our politicians (look no further than corporate prostitute Max Baucus), bombard us with advertisements that endlessly impact our behavior, and slowly but surely solidify and expand their power at our expense.

A sad reminder of how beaten down we are by corporate power is the legal fiction that corporations are persons. The Law allows corporations to be given all of the privileges of persons. They have the same legal protections; Corporations are legal persons.

This is, of course, absurd. And no less a right-wing hero than Milton Friedman has argued that corporations are not "folks." How could they be? I cannot arrest, kill, or harm a corporation, nor can a corporation vote .... or can it?!

A new case before the Supreme Court would radically change the way corporations operate. Corporations already own most our politicians. Current laws, however, forbid corporations from publicly opposing or supporting candidates. This means that corporate money cannot directly fund attacks on or praises for a particular candidate. Any person in the corporation can do, but the corporation itself cannot. This is a very necessary, and all too rare, check on corporate power.

The Average candidate and average voter cannot compete against the vast monetary power of corporations. If Corporations can directly endorse or oppose candidates, then democracy does not stand a chance.

Bill Moyers explains:

The Supreme Court is returning early from its summer recess to consider a potential watermark case that could overturn a century of campaign finance restrictions and clear the way for unregulated spending by corporations on political campaigns. The case, Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, has grown from a limited question about a political documentary to a broad challenge to the government's right to restrict corporations from spending money to support or oppose political candidates.

Encompassing questions on First Amendment rights, the power of corporations and the influence of money on political elections, it's no wonder the case has created an assortment of strange bedfellows. Conservatives and liberals appear on both sides, either to defend the government's right to restrict corporate political advocacy or, on the other side, to argue that such regulations are a violation of the First Amendment.

A good description of the issue at hand. Moyers' continues:

At the center of this case is a 2008 political documentary, HILLARY: THE MOVIE, which sought to portray then presidential contender Hillary Clinton as a dangerous threat to the United States. The Federal Election Commission considered it an electioneering communication, funded by a corporation, and therefore subject to McCain-Feingold restrictions.

When the case appeared before the Supreme Court last session, in early 2009, the question was only whether HILLARY: THE MOVIE was an electioneering communication, but the case has grown in the re-argument. According to the NEW YORK TIMES' Adam Liptik, "some of the broader issues implicated by the case were only glancingly discussed in the first round of briefs, and some justices may have felt reluctant to take a major step without fuller consideration." The court asked for a re-argument, specifically as to whether the court should overrule two previous decisions that upheld the government's right to limit certain types of corporate political advocacy — the 1990 decision in Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, which upheld a Michigan state law, and the 2003 decision in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld McCain-Feingold.

Let us step back for a moment. People have rights. We have the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. I would argue that we also have rights to a basic standard of living, including: food, water, shelter, and health care. Buildings, on the other hand, do not have rights; they cannot exercise them. Rocks, bricks, and cars have no rights for the same reason. But the Lawyer for the Corporations argues that Corporations - which are no more "persons" than rocks or bricks - are being denied their right to free speech under the current law!

I must say this loudly and clearly A CORPORATION IS NOT A PERSON. A corporation is a legally protected contract arrangement in which a group of individuals have come together and formed a charter which gives them limited liability and tremendous financial resources. The people forming the charter have rights, but a corporation exist only in the realm of legal entities and has no rights whatsoever.

But the absurdity factor is the least of our problems. Corporations have resources beyond even the imaginations of most real people. If Corporations are allowed to directly promote and support or oppose and attack particular candidates, then the real people cannot have a chance to compete. Democracy will have been utterly undermined and perhaps even destroyed.

At some point, we have to say enough is enough. We have to refuse to give up another one of our rights to make corporate profits larger and corporate investors and CEO even more absurdly wealthy. It is time to put our foot down. It is time to end the long process of Corporations growing full, vampire-like, on our weakened and violated bodies.

But why stop with campaign finance? Let's send a firm message to all the corporate stooges in government.

Begin with the most foul, the most vile, the most blatantly servile of corporate owned puppets; Max Baucus. This guy wrote a bill so generous to the health insurance industry that they could not have in their wildest dreams have hoped for it! Let the voters in Montana know, this guy is a whore for corporate cash. He has no shame and must be voted out of office. The man disgust me. He should disgust us all.

So there we are. After Baucus we know for certain that elected officials are nothing more than servants to their corporate masters; we shall see whether the Supreme Court is equally ready to sell out real people for imaginary ones.

Either way, the time has come to turn the tables on this "den of thieves."

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